Send to Kindle

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Too busy to read this (or any other ATRC blog post) now?  Own a Kindle or use a Kindle reading app?  We’ve got you covered.

Even regular readers of our blog may be forgiven for not noticing, but it is now possible to send our blog posts directly to your Kindle or Kindle reading app.  This is Amazon’s answer to those read-it-later services like Instapaper, Pocket and Readability.  Just click the little Send to Kindle button at the bottom of any blog post, and whoosh, off it goes.

Send to Kindle Button
Sample button, look below for the real one

Actually, the first time you click it you will be prompted to login to your Amazon account.  You will not be challenged on future clicks on the same computer, but be careful if you have multiple accounts.  The WordPress plugin will use your currently logged in status to determine which Kindle (or set of Kindle) apps to send the document to.

If you have multiple Kindle devices/apps (and who doesn’t) you can choose to sent to any/all of them by clicking the Change Settings button.

Send Dialog

You will then get a selection list of the devices associated with your current Amazon login:

Deliver To

Select any or all, and note the Archive check box.  If not checked, the document will be sent to the Device area of your library, and not archived, so that when it is removed it will be permanently removed, rather than continuing to exist in the Cloud storage area.  For transitory things like blog posts this is ideal, and thoughtful on the part of the Amazon developers to provide the option.

After you select the devices/apps you want to send the blog post to, just click the Send button and off to the cloud it goes, to be distributed via (in this case) WiFi to your various devices.

Formatting on the device/app itself will vary a bit—for instance, all graphics are centered and not justified as within a blog post, and embedded videos will not play, of course—but for those who like to do their read-it-later reading on the Kindle it is great.

The Google Art Project

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I had the opportunity to present a workshop today on the Google Art Project.  If you are not familiar with it, drop everything and pay attention.  This could change your life.

The Google Art Project is a gathering of art collections from around the world; 151 institutions, over 9,000 artists, and over 43,000 art works, and counting.  The art works are presented in high definition photography, and many in gigapixel resolution.  To see the Art Project for yourself, go to www.googleartproject.com.

The first thing that you will notice is that this is site looks VERY un-google-like.  A lot of thought has been put into the interface, and it is by no means minimalist, as most Google resources are.  Here is what the opening screen looks like, much reduced, of course.  The higher resolution the screen you use to view it, the happier you will be.

Google Art Project Intro Screen

A random piece of art work will appear each time you come to the site, with a gallery of lately added museums and featured sites.  The first thing you should do is login with your Google (GMail) account.  If for some reason you do not have a Google account, get one.  It will make an enormous difference in the amount of art you can see and whether you can store custom art galleries (which is one of the great pleasures of using the Art Project).  If you are the sort of person who does not want a Google account, get over it.  This is how interactions with technology are going to be for the foreseeable future.  You will need to have a least a nodding acceptance with all the giant tech companies in order to participate in the digital riches.

After logging in, Click the Artworks link in the upper left of the screen.

Artworks link

A collection of mostly gigapixel resolution (as in billions of pixels) pictures will fill the screen in medium thumbnail view.

Main Artworks Screen

Change the size of the thumnails by clicking the Refine > Layout selector, and choose small, medium or large thumbnails.

Layout selector

For filtering a collection by title or medium, choose the Filter > Title or Filter > Medium tabs.

Filter by medium

When you first go to the Artwork home screen, the Discover sidebar tool will light up, revealing two other search/filter tools:  by Artist and by Collection.

Discover tool

Clicking the Artist filter opens a panel with a search box (bar far the best way to locate an artist), an alpha list of filters; which will filter on all artists whose FIRST NAMES start with A, B, C, and so on; and a list of all 900+ artists, since the ALL filter is chosen by default.  If you are going to use the filter lists (next to useless in my opinion) remember that it is first names that count.  If you are looking for Manet, use the E filter, for Edouard, rather than the M filter.  Better yet, type [ manet ] in the search box and you will cut to the chase.  Why they introduced such a sill filtering method is beyond me, but as I say, this interface is very un-Google-like.

Clicking the Collection filter title will reveal the same search mechanism for collections.  Typing [ munch ] in the search box is much faster than clicking the M filter and finding the Munch Museum, Oslo, among all the Ms.

To see a major list of the Collections, Artists, and User galleries, in addition to Artworks, use the toolbar at the top left of the screen.

Catalog Categories Toolsbar

The User galleries on the toolbar refer to custom collections created by GAP users and made public.  As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no filtering that goes into this list, which might be made public by any individual.  I created a set of artworks, arranged chronologically, which illustrated couples and married couples in particular.  Within hours of my making it public it appeared in the User galleries, so be forewarned.  I’ll discuss how to create custom galleries below.

Returning to the Artworks home screen, or any screen of artworks from any collection, click on the thumbnail of the art work in order to view it alone on the screen in high definition.  Here is a reduced-size illustration of Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert.

St Francis Magnify View

Zoom/Unzoom the detailed view of the picture by rolling the mouse wheel, double clicking, clicking the +/- icons on the magnification inset (which in this case is outside the picture to begin with, but with pictures of much greater size will overlay the high definition picture.  I had trouble with the +/- magnification in the insets with both Firefox and Chrome (the only browsers worth using on the GAP), but was always alble to navigate with the mouse scroll wheel.  You can drag the focus of magnification around the picture by holding down the left mouse button and dragging, or moving the highlight in the magnification inset.

A Details button will reveal notes about the art work supplied by the museum.  In the case of Bellini’s St. Francis they are extensive, with 8 related videos, an audio and a map showing Venice, where Bellini was born and died.

Notes panel

To use Google street view to tour the host museum for any particular art work, click pegman.  If pegman does not appear in the art work viewing screen, there is no tour available.  The usual street view navigation tools and concepts from Google Maps and Google Earth apply.  If you are unfamiliar with them, there is a brief tutorial here.

Most people already know how to use street view, so it will come easily.  Not all street views are equal, and you will notice that in some museums lighting and clarity from the Google 360-degree street view cameras is a bit disappointing.  You will also notice that some art works in street view are blurred to protect copyright, downright silly in my opinion, since the quality of the pictures in street view is not at all worth reproducing.

As you look at pictures, you will want to create your own collections.  To do so, open the picture in Artwork view, or in detailed view.  If in artwork view, where there are a series of thumbnails on the screen, hover your mouse over the thumbnail and click the Add to Gallery tool.

Add to gallery from thumbnail

To add to a personal gallery from the detailed view of an object, click the add-to-gallery tool in the sidebar.  The specific gallery to which to add the object, or the opportunity to create a new gallery, will appear.  Select (or create) the appropriate gallery, add any textual detail you wish, and click Add.

Add to gallery sidebar tool

As noted above, personal galleries are private when they are created, and when changed to Public will be shared among all user galleries.  It is also worth noting that when a personal gallery is private, you cannot click its title to move from the gallery view back to the detailed art work view, but when public you can.  This is rather annoying, and I cannot imagine why it works this way.  Let’s put the best construction on it and call it an oversight.

Personal galleries allow for personal notes, including any text you wish to paste in, which will appear when the art work is viewed in detail view as an overlay; and a video link, if you wish to add one.  There are numerous art commentary videos at YouTube that can be associated within personal galleries, most notably from the Khan Academy’s remarkable Smarthistory project.

Finally, the sidebar toolbar also contains share on Google+ and a more general Share tools.  The Email share tool will send a link to the detailed art view to anyone you wish, or you can use the Google shortened link.

GAP Share Tool

The final, and most remarkable, tool I have not yet mentioned is one that allows side-by-side comparison of two painted, independently zoomable to maximum definition.  There is nothing like it elsewhere on the web for brush stroke or technical analysis.

Side by side comparison

To get a sense for how the Art Projects interface works in real time, take a look at this video.

 

To get a sense for how the project was put together, watch this one.

And to get an idea of the scope of the project, watch this.

The Google Art Project is a marvel to behold, done entirely pro bono and with notable skill and design flare.  It makes me feel guilty even offering a couple of criticisms, because I truly appreciate its free and open window into world art.  However, in the spirit of constructive criticism I suggest dropping the alpha letter filters; making the links from art work titles to art work detailed view work from personal galleries in private view; indexing artist names on last as well as first for in-app lists; and cleaning up the overall index.  I noted two art works done by Aleksandr Ivanov attributed to Tania Alexander, a really un-Google error.

Ivanov Misattribution

Those things being said, the Google Art Project is still a marvel, and a work in progress that can only get better.  Taken in concert with Smarthistory from the Khan Academy one can truly gain a deep understanding and personal experience with great art, along with the opportunity to share one’s insights with the wider community.  Thank you Google.

The Best News Aggregating Apps

When it comes to news aggregators, iPad apps suffer from an embarrassment of riches.  There are several truly excellent aggregators, each with its own take on algorithmically generated news for you.  In this post I will take a look at the leaders and you can decide for yourself which, if any, you might wish to install.  I will not be covering stand-alone publishing enterprises, like the New York Times or Time Magazine apps, but rather meta-tools that aggregate articles from these and many other news sources.  I have stretched my definition to include Reuters and AP, which technically are news sources, but have both produced excellent news consumption apps.

flipboard iconStanding atop the heap of aggregators is Flipboard, both for the elegance and richness of its interface and the inclusiveness of its news sources.  Flipboard, as its name implies, takes the magazine metaphor to its logical digital conclusion.  You flip pages within the sections of an overall aggregation of categories in which you express interest.  Here’s how it works.

After installing the app, create an account.  As with most of these apps, creating an account makes it easy to integrate your already existing news feeds from Google Reader, your twitter feed, facebook feed, and to create favorites and custom news stores—in this case custom “magazines” that you populate with your favorite articles.  Personal magazines can be topical and can, if desired, be shared.

Nerx, tap the red bookmark icon to add your pre-existing accounts, control notifications, and tell Flipboard the pre-set categories in which you are interested.  Within each category are able to select among many individual news sources.

FlipboardCFG

You can connect Flipboard to your personal accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, YouTube, The New York Times, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, 500px, Sina Weibo, Renren and Soundcloud, in order for Flipboard to access the already personally curated materials you may have already accumulated at one of those sites.

As you can see from the illustration above you can also select from a collection of standard categories, each of which includes an extensive array of news sources.  Flipboard provides its own pre-configured collections, or you can select directly from news publishers.  Within the Tech & Science category Flipboard offers a pre-configured Technology collection, and collections titled “Android Authority,” “Science,” and “Gear & Gadgets.”  Then TechCrunch provides a pre-populated section titled “TechCrunch Weekly,”  The Verge provides a gaming summary collection, and GigaOM provides one called “Thought Pieces.”  Those are just the major pre-configured offerings.  Then I count 53 dedicated news sources, like CNet, GeekWire, Gizmodo, PCMag, Space.com, The Tech Block, and so on.  Finally, there are Flipboard custom collections dedicated to Gaming, Green, Mobile, Science TV and Space.  And that’s just one category.

The user interface of Flipboard is what is most attractive.  From the title screen to the last detailed article each screen is presented as a flippable page in an overall collection.  Swipe across the screen to turn pages.  The navigation is intuitive, with a Flipboard link at the top of each page to get back to your main index pages, joined by a search button, and a menu icon to quickly jump to any section in your custom news magazine.  At the bottom of each page is a refresh button, a page indicator, showing how far into a section you have flipped, an action button which allows for sharing the entire “magazine” section you are reading via Twitter or Facebook, and a post button.  Within each article a toolbar appears on the bottom of each page that allows for replies to the article (if allowed), a Like heart, an action button, with sharing options, including a share-to read later service (Instapaper, Pocket or Readability), and, uniquely, a Plus button to add it to a custom magazine that you can build from any resource appearing in Flipboard.  Where areticles are linked to the web you never lose the context, and can easily return to Flipboard by means of a navigation button at the top left of the screen.

Flipboard Share Tools

Five stars go to this app for inspired design elegance, breadth of content, useful customizations, and pleasing concept consistency.

zite icon “We all want to be in touch with the “Zeitgeist” — the spirit of our times. We want to know the current events, important ideas and smart opinions that are circulating in our world-what’s happening and what’s interesting. And we want to be challenged with experiences that are new and unexpected” runs the description on the About Zite page.  This aggregator takes a more general, less publisher-centric organization of its categories, and with that approach the “unexpected” index goes up.  The good news is that it gives you the simplest method I have seen yet in expressing likes or dislikes for articles (drag article summaries/headlines up or down to approve or disapprove) and learns over time the kinds of articles you want to see.  My own experience is that there is too much that is unexpected and annoyingly distracting in any category, never mind all of them, but that, of course, will be a matter of taste.

You can login to Zite using your Google account, and then add your Google Reader feeds.  Your first chore is to select areas of interest.  As I say, these are not the traditional Technology & Science, Politics, Sports, type categories used by Flipboard—though there are some traditional categorie pre-populated by Zite—but more narrowly topical, like Management, Zoology, Bicycling, Yoga, North Korea, or just about anything you want to search on.  Once you heart a topic (tap the little heart button after it to light it up) you have the option of adding it to your Quicklist, the list of topics for which you want to see news.  The Quicklist then acts as your sectional index to Zite.

As with Flipboard, you can connect Zite to your Twitter feed, Facebook, Google Reader (as mentioned) and to your Pocket account, if you have one.

Zite categories

The Zite user interface owes a lot to Flipboard (or vice versa), but the resemblance is only superficial.  It is much more tightly web-based than Flipboard, and at the article level the elegance often breaks down.  Depending on the publisher, of course, this will vary.  Most articles I have read on Zite reformat nicely, but are scrollable, not separated into pages.  The Nav bar at the bottom of the screen has a little globe icon, which takes you directly to the web site from which the article is extracted, with an easy X close button overlaid on the site to return to Zite.  It all works well, but feels less tightly self-contained than Flipboard.  Other tools on the article Nav bar include a gear/settings icon to control text size or to Block the source (an important filtering mechanism as you are weeding out the oceans of junk from the nuggets of useful content); Like/Not Like buttons to teach Zite what it is you want to see; a Share button with an impressive list of options, including SMS and Evernote; and a Next button to move to the next article.

Share Options

At the headline/article summary level it is simple to drag a headline down to show that you do NOT like it, or up to show you do, and ask for more of the same (or not).  Once you do this the article gets a little red down-thumb icon in its summary’s upper right corner, and it is dimmed out; or it gets a green up-thumb icon, showing it can be used to predict future likes.  The little icons can be deleted by simply tapping them, restoring the article to its neutral status.

Article OperationsArticle Operations

Because this app is more web-integrated, it feels less self-contained than Flipboard, so I have to mark it down for consistency in design and execution.  All too often obnoxious web stuff (trash ads and poor layout) are encountered because they are on the web and do not conform to Zite’s high HTML 5/CSS 3 standards.  This can happen on Flipboard too, but far less often.  I like the more granular system of categories, and the greater ease with which the app can be taught what I like, but it lags behind Flipboard in connecting to the personal accounts I have (New York Times, Flickr and YouTube, for example), in integrating my personal Twitter and Facebook feeds, among others, and in depth of publisher news sources.  It has a system of favorites for consolidating articles, but does not have the much slicker system of Flipboards personal magazines.  I would have to give it four stars out of five.  An excellent app, with small design features that are brilliant, but overall not quite as good or personally satisfying as Flipboard.

 news360 iconNews360 has a couple of really unique features to give your news searches more depth.  It looks a lot like Pulse, or News Republic, two other news aggregators that should be given honorable mentions here but not featured because they are just not very unique, personally configurable, or, frankly, well designed—at least not in a class with one of the three listed here and above.  News360 goes beyond many rival apps in its clever interface and ability to predict what you want to view or read.

News360 Splash Screen

The News360 splash screen illustrated above emphasizes the rounded take on news—an approach to meet the needs of everyone—that it features.

After signing in with your Google account (which permits syncing across multiple devices) the first activity to accomplish is to tell News360 what type of news you want to see.  Click the Add/Edit button to select from among multiple categories, as with the other news apps mentioned above.  As you select from the provided presets, or search to find your own, a tile for that category is added to the sliding index at the top of the screen, that  is always available at the section overview level, regardless of the category.  News360’s ability to drill down to specific topics is impressive.  I added major category tiles to my index for Nuclear Threats, William Shakelspeare, and FDR, along with many traditional categorizations, like Google, Science, Movies, etc.  News360 even has a Local News aggregator for my area code, something most of the other news apps I have looked at lack.

Stories within each category are summarized on a tile (which can also be laid out in list fashion).  The advantage of the tile layout become apparent immediately as soon as you flip on of them (push up or down on the tile with your finger).  It flips over, as if it were suspended on an axis, to reveal not only several shareing options, like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Email and so on, but also the coverage of the same story from multiple news sources.  Thus the name, News360:  news from every angle.

News360 Share Tile

Tapping on a headline tile brings up a summary of the story, with a set of tabs to view it in detail from any of numerous sources.

Detail Article Screen

From any detailed source summary, you can flip the screen up and the web page on which it is extracted is revealed.  Tap the web page to see the article in context, then click the back button to return to News360.  To my mind this is a better web integration than that of Zite, but this may simply be taste.  Note the ad at the bottom of the article above.  Flipboard integrates ads into the articles from time to time.  they are full screen ads that can be quickly skipped and are not at all annoying.  Zite does not directly integrate ads into its content.  News360 takes the more traditional free-app approach of highlighting the web site from which the story is extracted at the bottom of the article.  They are unobtrusive, but certainly take away from the elegance of the app.  Click through to the publisher’s site is the intention, but whether this translates into income for News360 is unclear.

The share options in News360 are not as extensive as with Zite or Flipboard, but they are certainly adequate.  When you first start using the program it has a rather childish Star system, where you earn stars as you train it about what you like to read, but other than this minor annoyance it does a really good job of presenting multiple takes on each news story within an interface that is well integrated with the web content on which it is based.  Four stars for this one too.

Other News Apps

This post is already too long, and I have only mentioned three of the best news aggregators.  After looking at many of these apps one is left with two overwhelming impressions:  1)  In spite of even responsible peoples’ best intentions, there is an ocean of crap on the Internet, and try as they might, you cannot be completely insulated from it, though apps like this are an essential filter; 2) The days of Google Reader, not to mention the lesser news reader apps, are over and Google is discontinuing it probably not least because of these new aggregating apps.  In fact, Google publishes their own News app called Currents, which is good, but not stellar like the three mentioned above.  Perhaps a third observation is that there are a lot of brilliant designers and programmers out there creating new and exciting data channels.  Let’s hope they succeed financially.

In addition to the major news aggregating apps: Flipboard, Zite, News360, News Republic, Pulse, and Currents (to mention only half a dozen—there are many more), I would like to call attention to a really remarkable app from Reuters that aggregates Reuters contents in a very slick interface.  While not as “wide bored” as a multi-source aggregator, it does a great job of organizing and presenting standard news, and, as I say, the interface is great.  AP also has a very good app for their own content.  Steering a little wider afield I would like also to mention The Wider Image, from Reuters, for a truly unique and beautiful take on the news.  Finally, for those of you who just can’t get over the demise of the newspaper, there’s Early Edition 2, the only app among this collection that is not free ($4.99).  You can configure it with your news content and it will lay it out newspaper style.  If you think that is a good idea, however, news aggregators are probably not for you.

Student Paper Markup: Quick Parts and Macros

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Those responsible for reading and commenting on student papers know that there are certain comments that get made over and over.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to store these in Word, and insert them into the student paper (or a Review annotation to the student paper) with a single keystroke?  There is with Quick Parts and Macros.  This post demonstrates how.

Quick Parts

First, open a Word document and type the comments you typically enter on student papers.  You may want to save this document and add to it as you think of others later.  To make quick parts out of each of your comments, highlight them, one at a time, and go to the Insert tab.  Click the drop-down under Quick Parts and select “Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery…”

Save To Quick Parts

Note that you can specially format the text before placing it in the Quick Parts Gallery.  For example, if you intend to insert your comments in-line with student text you might want to highlight it with a color so that it will stand out from the rest of the text before placing it in the Gallery.

Run-on Sentence

When you click Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery… the Create New Building Block dialog will appear.  You can provide a short, memorable name for the Quick Part (this is important if you wish to find it later among a long list of building block items), select the gallery in which it belongs (no need to change it from the Quick Parts gallery), categorize it (this might be useful with a specialized collection of Quick Parts).  The Options drop-down allows for: 1) Insert content only; 2) Insert content in its own paragraph; or 3) Insert content in its own page.  If you will be marking up papers in-line, you will probably want to leave this set to Insert content only, but if you are using the Word Review feature to mark-up papers you will probably want to change this to Insert content in its own paragraph.

After you have built-up your gallery, you may want to add it to the quick access tool bar so that it is always available to you at the top of the ribbon.  Right-click the Quick Parts command and choose “Add to Quick Access Toolbar.”

Add To Quick Access

Now your comments are available to you from the top of the Word screen.

Comment Drop Down

Macros

If you want to take the process a step further, you can record Macros for each of the commands, so that pressing some mnemonic keystroke combination will insert the comment.  Here’s how.

With your insertion point anywhere in a document, click on the View tab, click the drop-down under Macros, and select Record Macro….

Record Macro

The Record Macro dialog box.  I would recommend naming the Macro same as the Quick Part, adding a comment, storing in Normal.dotm, and assigning a Keyboard shortcut.

Set Up Macro

The key to success is picking a mnemonic keystroke.  For example, I chose Ctrl+Shift+R for the run-on sentence comment.  Using the same keyboard modifiers (Ctrl+Shift) and then mnemonic first letter is a good strategy.

Now record the motions of going to the Insert tab, clicking the Quick Parts drop-down, and selecting the run-on sentence comment.  Then go to the View tab, Macros tool, and click Stop Recording.

From now on, each time you press Ctrl+Shift+R your run-on sentence comment will be inserted.  Suddenly life becomes a whole lot easier.

Why Screencast?

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I will be conducting a workshop Friday on how to capture and produce video in Camtasia.  Camtasia is the state-of-the-art screen capture program from TechSmith.  We have licensed it for District computers at our college, and those who do not qualify for the District licenses copy can purchase it for the educational price of $179.  As I say, my workshop is titled How to Capture and Produce video—specifically screencast video—in Camtasia.  It grew out of a workshop I did on how to edit video in Camtasia.  Folks who attended that one wanted more on how to originally get screencast video and what settings to use when producing it, so I obliged.  (None of those people who requested the special workshop have shown up at subsequent workshops, but others have).  So, before discussing any of the technical how-tos, we should ask the question: Why create a screencast in the first place?  I can think of several reasons.

First, and certainly the one that requires the least effort, you can make a quick video with Camtasia using your webcam to simply greet your students, or introduce a new topic or module in your course and discuss with them what you expect the learning outcomes of the new subject matter ought to be.  A personal video can be much more interesting than written discussions, especially if they are of length.

Here is a real quick and dirty intro to my workshop that I dashed off before class last time I taught this subject.  It is made for the small screen, so I didn’t bother with a high res camera or an elaborate setting (quite an understatement if you observe my office).

Secondly—and here is where we get to true screencasts—Camtasia can be used to describe how to do something on the computer.  This comes up all the time for us in Academic Technology, of course, where we record the screen and describe some click-here click-there procedure.  Once you see it demonstrated it all comes clear.  In the following video I have included this technique in one that might not at first occur to most instructors: A running commentary on student draft papers or project evaluations.  Why not as you are marking up student papers make a video of the process, and explain your comments first hand along with demonstrating any techniques that the student might need to know?

Note that this video was captured at 1280 x 720 pixels screen resolution.  Click the little gear in the YouTube player and choose 720p video, then go full screen with it.  You will see that it is plenty large and clear enough to see exactly what I am talking about.  Where there are really small details to observe, I used the zoom and pan features of Camtasia to zoom in on them.

Finally, another reason you might want to use Camtasia to make screencasts is to convert your PowerPoint presentations to narrated videos.  While it is true you can do this natively from PowerPoint now (with PowerPoint 2010 and 2013—2013 being superior because its default video file format is mp4), Camtasia gives you even more editing and production choices to make it one button simple to publish to YouTube.  Here is an example.

Note that I added a picture-in-picture effect using Camtasia to record the PowerPoint—something you cannot do using PowerPoint alone—and that all the animations within PowerPoint played smoothly.  Once again, this was captured at 1280 x 720 screen resolution, resulting in 720p video.

So where should you link your videos once they are completed?  You have several choices.  I covered this topic in depth when writing about PowerPoint video, but to summarize:

  • The recommended solution is YouTube.  It just works, and will be trouble free.  Camtasia has a one-button simple publish to YouTube feature.
  • Publish directly to Blackboard.  Simply produce your video in Camtasia and upload the mp4 file to Blackboard.  The consideration here is how big is your Blackboard course getting.  You do not want it to exceed 2.5GB, because a course that big cannot be restored from archive.
  • If size is a consideration, then publish your video and upload it to your Palomar web space.  If you are not sure where your Palomar web space is, contact us.

Of course there are variations on these themes.  Vimeo may be your host of choice, rather than YouTube, or you may have a private web host you would prefer to use.

These are the primary reasons you might want to make screencasts to share with your students.

Tablet Comparisons

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I had the opportunity of hosting a workshop recently titled “The New World of Tablet Computing” where the point was to display the feature sets and capabilities of four new (and market leading) tablets:  the Nexus 10; the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″; the iPad 4th generation; and the Microsoft Surface RT.   Market leading is deceptive.  iPad leads the market by light years, and the Fire and Nexus can only be mentioned as distant competition with the Surface not even appearing on the charts if sales is used as the standard.  Nevertheless, since some actual competition to the iPad now exists, I set out to compare and contrast.

At one point, in a gush of enthusiasm I think we titled the putative workshop “Fun with Tablet Computing,” but as I gathered materials for the presentation I made a long comparative chart of features the quickly dispelled the idea of having fun at all.  This was serious business and highly technical, unfortunately for prospective tablet buyers.  As it turned out, the chart was far too technical for the audience, so let me summarize its principle findings here.  Before that, however, take a look at this Microsoft video I presented to kick off the workshop.  The gee whiz factor is high, but the serious point is that capacitive touch screens are going to revolutionize the information management landscape of the near future.

Amazing, huh?  We have the bare beginnings of this fluid sort of information management in our hands with our phones and tablet devices, and only the greed and proprietary designs of the big four companies—Google, Amazon, Apple and (to a far lesser extent) Microsoft, can delay its general arrival.

But I digress.  Without printing a lot of mind-numbing numbers here are the principle findings of my comparison chart:

Cameras

The best camera combos (front and rear facing) are on the Nexus and iPad.  Their specs are almost identical, with the Nexus getting the technical edge, but the picture on the iPad is better for reasons beyond specs and having to do with blacks, highlight management and color stauration.  The nod goes to the iPad.  The Kindle does not even have a rear facing camera, and the cameras in the Surface are notably inferior.  If cameras matter, get the iPad.

Screen Resolution

The Nexus has the highest pixel density per inch, but to be honest you really can’t see a difference in pictures seen on the Kindle, Nexus or iPad.  They all look great, with, as indicated above, a nod to the iPad for a better defined, more saturated picture.  The Surface picture is far inferior with a pixel density half that of the Nexus.  Movies look great on all but the Surface.

Speed

The iPad A6X chip is lightning fast, but so is the Nexus with a Samsung Exynos 5250 assisted by a dedicated Mali T604 GPU—oops, fell into tech speak.  Sorry.  Both the iPad and Nexus are very fast and responsive.  The Kindle lags noticably.  The Surface is so different that it is hard to judge, but feels slowest of the bunch in getting basic things done.  That is just a reflection of Windows RT vs. iOS and Android.  It is bigger, bulkier, and doing entirely different things.

Touch

Here again it is a tie between the Nexus 10 and the iPad.  Both are highly responsive and smooth.  The Kindle lags and the Surface is also notably sluggish.

 Audio

The speaker systems on the Kindle and Nexus are the best, with the nod going to the Nexus because its speakers are truly front facing.  The Surface speakers are OK, nothing to brag about, and the iPad speaker system is downright tinny and inadequate.  Audio on all four devices using the headphone jack are very good, with the Kindle sounding best in my opinion.  I find myself using the built-in speakers more often than headphones, though—after all, I have an iPod for extended listening through headphones—so I have to give the nod here to the Nexus.

NFC and NFC Android Beam

The Nexus is the only one of these devices that has this technology, which sounds like a selling point, but try to find a place it is implemen6d.  Unless you have lots of friends with whom you share data who also own Nexus tablets, don’t worry about this one.

Wireless Projection

This is important if you are planning on using your device in the classroom to connect to a projector.  The iPad wins hands down, using an Apple TV device or the Reflector airplay emulator.  The Nexus is supposed to support a wireless protocol called MiraCast, but I bought a NetGear Miracast device and could not get it to connect to the Nexus.  As far as I know, it is not possible to wirelessly project using the Nexus, Kindle or Surface.  They all have micro-HDMI out, but cannot be used wirelessly.

 Battery Life

Here again, iPad wins, with over 11 hours of video battery life.  The Nexus and Kindle are in the middle, and the Surface has the poorest battery life of the group.

Infrastructure

When you purchase one of these devices, what you are really buying into is their content infrastructure; iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and the Microsoft App Store.  By far the best developed and most elegant is the Apple implementation.  The others look kludgy by comparison, with the Microsoft App Store having just a bare minimum of useful or appealing apps and little else.  Amazon has the edge on quantity of content, but iTunes is the best implemented and happiest user experience.

 The winner is…

So let’s sum up by category that might mean something to users of content.  The winner is for:

  • apps and games:  iPad
  • movies & TV:  Kindle
  • picture quality:  iPad
  • music:  Nexus or Kindle
  • books:  Nexus or Kindle
  • productivity apps:  iPad or Surface (yes, Surface, only because it runs Office, sort of)
  • speed:  Nexus or iPad
  • smooth performance:  Nexus or iPad
  • storage:  iPad, at 128GB, but cloud storage makes this rather beside the point
  • cameras:  iPad
  • ports:  Nexus or Surface
  • battery life:  iPad
  • price:  Ah, price.  There you have the quandry.  At $399 the 16GB Nexus 10 is the best value, in my opinion, but because of its other virtues, infrastructure being a significant one, I still give the nod to the $499 iPad.  It’s worth the extra hundred, though it is hard to criticize the Nexus 10.  If what matters the most to you is entertainment content, however, and you are willing to put up with less than premium performance, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ at $299 is a really good choice.  The only real excuse for the Surface is that it runs Windows on a tablet and will also run a version of Office, if that indeed is an excuse.  The price is too high for what you get, in my opinion, and rapidly escalates into laptop land when you add keyboards, adapters, extra storage and warranties, which makes it awfully hard to justify.  It is more a novelty than serious competition for the other three.

That’s my take on the state of the market leading tablets as they exist to date.