At what cost?


I read about the announcements from Apple yesterday with interest.  It’s not that I’m sitting on a pot of gold here waiting to buy the latest and shiniest though.  It’s just a chance to see how Apple will push the world forward in technology use and ideas and also a chance to see them catch up with others.

My biggest interest was in what I would call catch up and that was the promised news service.  I admit that I’m a news junky and was really curious.  Off I went to the App Store and I couldn’t find it.  I grabbed my iPad and looked at the store there and nada.

I wasn’t terribly surprised; often it takes a day or two for things to trickle down to we Canadians.  The price of Apple News+ is listed at $9.99/month which, of course, is American dollars.  If you’ve ever downloaded a song for iTunes, you know that it takes a few more pennies Canadian to do the deed.

So, I was going to wait a couple of days but then wondered if I wasn’t missing a web version.  I actually just guessed that it might be at http://news.apple.com and it turned out I was correct.

Click to try and I get this…

AppleNews

I forgot this was Apple.  Every new feature requires a rewrite of the operating system!  Here’s where I stand as I begin to write this post.  2.5 GB to use a new application.  Hopefully, the standard “bug fixes and enhancements” also apply.

download

Even after I download it, and apply the update, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be available in Canada but I’m 1/2 a gig into it so will finish.

It’s not that I need another news program.  Followers of me know that I’m up early and reading things in Flipboard, News 360, Opera Personal News, and of course, my Old Reader collection.  But still, a new player on the market deserves at least a click or two (and a download).

— a while later —

I’ve rebooted and am back to the news site.  When I click the “Try Apple News+” button, I’m prompted to see if I approve the opening of the application.  I did a quick check and, yes, there is now a News application in my applications folder.

Upon opening, there are a number of default channels – obviously it knows that I’m from Canada and it comes pre-configured for Canadian Politics and NHL Hockey.  How cliche.  No CFL Football?

Ah, but I can search for additional channels or topics.  Of course, I had to add Education and Educational Technology.

Channels

I could add some of my, er, Favourites…

Favourites

And a bit of preferences to change.

newsprefs

It was interesting to poke around.  There is the promised News+ section which will be the paid upgrade.  Disappointingly, for the way I read the news, I couldn’t find a way to share the stories that I’m reading to my social networks.  There is the traditional Apple sharing menu amongst Apple things that are on my computer.

Heading back and poking around, there clearly is a Mac OS and an iOS application.  There’s nothing about the program that runs on the web.  That cuts out much of my reading routine because I’m not always using my MacBook Pro.  Plus, I do like the sharing with others aspect of what I do when I’m reading.  The best I could come up with is to use the “Open with Safari” option (which actually opened my default browser which isn’t Safari) and from there I could share.  It’s just a couple of extra steps.

Navigation was slick; the navigation menu was in a dark mode in the left pane with the content appearing as the publisher intended in the right.

In summary, it is an Apple application and designed to keep you in the Apple environment and not out in the open on the web.  I’ve taken a quick wander around the News+ section.  Given the limitations above, from my perspective, paying for access for stories might well be the saving factor for the program.  So much of the other functionality exists already in other places.

A better internet?


It was after reading this story this morning

The Man Who Invented the World Wide Web Has Mixed Feelings About What the Internet Has Become

that I got thinking about the “good old days” when we just went online to do research or reading or communicating or whatever.  We actually paid for the service so we had the choice not to pay.  We didn’t worry about who was following us around as we went from web resource to web resource.  We just revelled in the fact that so much was available to us.

Then, of course, things changed.  You can’t read anything about the internet without getting advice about how to be careful and be wise in your use.

Thinking about this brought back a memory of a series of articles from Gizmodo that I enjoyed.  I wonder how they’d affect me.

It was from a series that they called Goodbye Big Five.

I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible

This looks like it’s going to be relatively easy.  I seldom buy anything directly from Amazon.  I do, however, recognize that results from Amazon appear in searches that I make online for products.  I do use Amazon to get a good idea about what a product might be worth but I’m impatient.  I’ll use that pricing as a benchmark to see where I can just go out and get my hands on what I want immediately.  That’s the retail part.

The other area is Amazon Web Services.  I have no doubt that much of what I access online comes from there.

I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. Surprisingly, I Missed It

Facebook is an interesting one.  I never really had the desire to get connected and start to look for friends, old and new.  Facebook became more than that though.  It’s the place where a lot of local businesses have a presence rather than pay for development of a unique web presence.

Then, the connections started making sense.  It’s a hoot to get connected with people from the community where I grew up.  We share stories and pictures and talk about the good old days.

But, the biggest thing is using it to share pictures with family.  We don’t see each other on a daily basis but it is a place to stay in touch or share pictures of the latest adventure.  Plus, I get a hoot of taking one of the kids out for lunch and check into the place only to get the reactions from the others.

I Cut Google Out Of My Life. It Screwed Up Everything

I would feel the same here I think.  I remember the first time I’d heard about Google.  It was an excited CAIT who shared this.  Until this point, our point of reference for search had been Altavista or Dogpile.  Google changed all of that … and more.

For the most part, I use the Google Chrome web browser.  It’s a no-brainer on my Chromebook although I do have Opera and Firefox installed there and on my other computer.  Every now and again, I’ll use a different browser until I run into a service that absolutely demands a “modern” browser and really means Chrome.  Now and again, I’ll play the real rebel and use Linux with Chromium.  It does make me feel good.

The reality is that so much in my life is Google based – Gmail, my Calendar, so many Google Documents with many of the organizations that I interact with, Maps, Earth, Android, and much more.  To replace all these with an alternative would be the ultimate digital makeover.

I Cut Microsoft Out of My Life—or So I Thought

I have an old computer (9 years old) that has Windows 10 on it but, to be honest, spend most of my time on that computer dual booted into Linux.  It’s faster, more reliable, and provides open source alternatives for anything that I might want to use.

I periodically have twinges of guilt and will boot into Windows.  Windows 10 users will know what comes next; series of updates and reboots.  Then, like most Windows machines, it gets slower and slower.  Edge is a nice to use browser but often chokes on websites wanting a “modern browser”.

I do use Outlook for some of the resources that I subscribe to and have an account for the online version of Office.  There are some people that refuse to use Google services so it’s nice to be connected and fluent enough with Microsoft online to compromise.  I do like OneNote but only the web version; keeping local installations up to date can be a challenge.

I Cut Apple Out of My Life. It Was Devastating

I’m writing this using a MacBook Pro so there’s two strike against me there.  Although it’s four year old, it works nicely now that I replaced the install hard drive with an SSD.  I’ve never warmed up to Safari as a browser (because I like my extensions and customizations)  or the Office that comes installed.  Instead, I’ll use LibreOffice or head off to the cloud.

But not Apple’s cloud.  I have an account with Apple but it’s essentially my connection to iTunes to download music.

I do walk with my headphones connected to an old iPod.  Since it’s just digital, playing music is nice and easy.  The buttons don’t work all that well but it can always be recharged if I’m unable to turn it off.  My old iPad has been relegated to a media player connected via Bluetooth to a head set.  It doesn’t do much else anymore.  My old Android phone is my new tablet.

Summary

I could go on and on but the author in these articles did a nice job so I won’t bother.  What was interesting in this whole process was to realize just how reliant and connected to so many different pieces of technology I was.  Given where I stand today, I don’t think it’s possible to escape.  I supposed that the best thing to do is to develop coping strategies to accept this reality and deal with it.

Maybe a better exercise than going through and cut out reliance on technology from these various sources, it would be easier to start from scratch and build a profile that doesn’t include reliance on them.

Where would you fit in this scenario?

The view from here


As long as there have been computers, there have been desktop background images. Quite frankly, I’ve always kind of thought that it’s dumb because if you’re doing anything with your computer, you shouldn’t be seeing the desktop anyway.

And yet, it’s the very first thing that I do when I get a new computer and something that I change periodically. I guess there’s something impressive when someone looks over your shoulder and is impressed with the image.

With the advent of Apple’s Mojave upgrade, they’ve added the ability to have dynamic images as your background. Now, rotating images isn’t new but it was worth experimenting with anyway. This implementation is different.

Out of the box, Apple gives you a couple to get started. I tried them and they do work and are kind of neat. I’m assuming that it reads your computer clock and adjusts accordingly. But, there has to be more!

Look at my desktop now. This is the image as of 7:00am.

I had to learn about the “High Efficiency Image File Format” in the process but learning is good.


And later at about 8:30, you can see lightness working its way across the planet. (That’s twice in one morning that I’ve looked at my desktop!)

This is part of a collection offered for free – in addition to Earth above, look for HEIFFs of Jupiter, Moon, International Space Station, a City and New Orleans. Instructions about how to make this work are at the bottom of the page.

The page? Well, it’s right here.

Have you upgraded to Mojave and played around with this feature? Do you have a favourite? Please let me know via comment.

Write Your Own eTextbook…


…in fact, you may already be doing most of this.

Recently, I had a conversation with a computer science teacher who was bemoaning the fact that there just wasn’t a perfect textbook for her course.  I don’t think that’s unusual.

I never found a computer science textbook that I wanted to use.  The examples in the ones that I looked at were different from the ones that I would use and the exercises often were too simple to reinforce the concepts that I wanted.  Plus, it’s also nice to have a bank of extra problems to pull out as needed – for review, extra practice, ideas for students, and so much more.

Any computer science teacher that I’ve ever met is the ultimate curator.  Filing cabinets just chock full of problems gathered from here and there; I was always a sucker for online programming competitions.  They are always a wonderful source of problems for class solution or for student problems.  Most are now available on the web and moving to a digital storage is only a click away.

Back to my discussion.  She was proud to indicate two things…first, the students were allowed to bring their own devices to classroom which had changed the way that she used computers – no more waiting for the “master image” to have the language and editors that she wanted.  Secondly, she had moved all of her notes and examples to a WordPress blog.  It was a private self-hosted blog and was just perfect for her purposes.  The students could access the current lesson or problem by visiting the blog.  She had learned quickly enough to have a few lessons published in advance so that there always was something ready.  She was using the comments to a post section as a way for students to ask questions or get clarification when students weren’t in class.

It seemed like a perfect scenario with just one gotcha that was looming for a couple of students.  They didn’t have internet access at home.  It was not a huge problem provided the student remember to go to the blog and grab the topic while at school.  She was considering moving her resources to any of the eBook editing programs that are available but was shuddering to think of the work involved.

As we talked, I remembered BlogBooker.  I’ve written about it a few times on this blog.  Do a search or just read this one post.

Long story short, BlogBooker takes your blog and makes it into a PDF file.  That file, then, can be repurposed for any use that you might have for it including distributing copies to your students.  Why not turn your blog into an eTextbook?  BlogBooker has a great selection of options for formatting…

It sounds just like the sort of thing that any editing process would include.  Since the resulting document is a PDF file, images are embedded nicely, and links you make reference to are live!  If you’d been allowing Comments with one class, you could include them or go ahead an exclude them so the textbook is all you!  There’s nothing more universally assessible by devices than PDF.  And, if you need to revise the text book for subsequent years, you already have all your blogging experience at hand to make the changes.

BookBlogger is the perfect tool for saving a year’s worth of blog posts … those posts could your next best textbook!

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French iOS Applications


One person that’s regularly on the Ontario Educators’ list is @sylviaduckworth.  She’s a regular Twitter user and sends out some great content.  Sylvia is definitely someone that you want to follow, particular if teaching French using AIM is of interest to you.  She has a strong passion for this.

I’ve just recently stumbled on her French iOS Applications blog.  It’s bookmarked and now listed in the Ontario Edublogger list.

This has real interest for me.  That little guy that hangs out at our house is soon going to be in a situation where he’s serious about French as a language.

Of course, I’ll want to make his environment as rich in both languages as I can.

That’s where Sylvia’s blog will come handy.  She’s devoted this blog to downloading and evaluating applications that would be appropriate for use in the FSL classroom.  She has a “so far” list…

and a much longer to-do list.  It’s a very ambitious goal!  Those of us who are interested in this will truly benefit from her efforts.

She’ll have plenty of visits from me over the next while as these all roll out.

Bring it on, Sylvia!  This will be a truly unique blog.  I can’t find anything similar and neither can Zemanta which I use for related links.

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