Palomar Streaming Video and Chrome

Chrome icon

Users of Google’s Chrome browser who are trying to play back videos from Palomar’s streaming video system are in for a treat… and by treat I mean an error message indicating that Silverlight is not installed. Diligent users go load up the newest version of Silverlight, only to be told that Silverlight is not installed. Continue reading “Palomar Streaming Video and Chrome”

Bb Student app for iOS and Android phones

Bb Student logo

Not sure how many Palomar students have tried out the Blackboard Mobile app for accessing Blackboard courses, but recently the Blackboard company launched another phone app which may be of interest. Called “Bb Student,” the app is for iOS and Android phones. Continue reading “Bb Student app for iOS and Android phones”

Blackboard Mobile Learn App Licensing


As many faculty are already aware, there is a Blackboard Mobile Learn app available for iOS and Android devices. That isn’t news, as the app has existed for a couple years now. What is news relates to a change in the way that app is licensed.

Previously the app was usable only by certain devices using certain connections, in a fashion that was confusing to explain. Unless, of course, the institution you were attending actually purchased a license, in which case everything just plain worked. That last is still true, that the institution can purchase a license to use the Mobile Learn app… but that isn’t going to happen here at Palomar. However, it is now possible for individuals to purchase their own license to the Mobile Learn app, and thus use the app in whatever way they wish even though the college isn’t footing the bill.

Here’s how it works: You would install the free app, either on your Android device from Google Play, or on your iOS device from iTunes. Then you search for the institution, and log in. At that point you will be prompted to purchase a license for the app.

What does it cost? There are two licensing options, a one-year license which is priced at $1.99, and a lifetime access license which is prices at $5.99. That license will allow you to install the app on any devices you have of that same type, so if you have both an iPad and iPhone you can have the app on both for the same cost.

Now, I’ve gone on record in the past as saying that the Blackboard Mobile Learn app is clearly designed with the student in mind, and that’s certainly still true. The tools are really not there for faculty to create rich content within a course right from the app. Of course, if you’re trying to create content on your mobile device… I’d say you were doing it wrong. Use a computer for creation, and leave the mobile devices to consumption of material. The app does do a great job of allowing access to attached files right from within the app, as well as a convenient jumping off point for accessing the whole course site from within a browser without having to log in again. The most attractive part of the app for faculty at this point to my mind is that it allows easy browsing of the discussion forums, so you can sit out on your patio with your iPad and monitor discussion threads. Just don’t expect to grade tests from the app at this time, because that level of functionality just isn’t there.

To see what it looks like to start up the app on an iPad now that licensing is required, take a look at this video:


As you can see, the app itself is the same as it was earlier this year, but thanks to the option (okay, requirement, but I’m trying to be optimistic about this change) for individual licensing, now more users can use the app on more kinds of devices. And, to my mind, anything that makes it easier for students to get at the material faculty put into Blackboard is a good thing.

Tech News Lowlights

Ever vigilant, here is the tech news lowlight roundup for the week of April 30, 2010.

Controlled Fusion Redux

All my life I have heard of the tantalizing dream of controlled fusion as the inexhaustible solution to global energy needs.  Lawrence Livermore National Labs to the rescue:  “Scientists at a government lab here are trying to use the world’s largest laser — it’s the size of three football fields — to set off a nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the Earth…If they’re successful, the scientists hope to destroy the earth solve the global energy crisis by harnessing the energy generated by the mini-star” (CNN).  Couple this story with Sir Martin Rees’ unsettling prediction that there is a 50% chance of humanity’s extinction before 2100 CE “…the possibility of malign or accidental release of destructive technology” (Wikipedia summary of Rees’ Our Final Hour).  Rees thinks that a grand physics experiment run amok is actually not an unlikely scenario for total obliteration.  If so, it won’t be this one.  (My money is on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider as the doomsday machine, if they ever get it running at full energy, which is appearing more and more unlikely).

When you describe this experiment to someone, especially making reference to the 3-football field length laser generators and the temperatures and pressures present exceeding those of the center of the sun, the typical reaction is one of awed suspicion that this might just actually destroy us all.  In fact, not a chance.  Humans have been experimenting with UNCONTROLLED fission/fusion/fission reactions on the surface of the earth since the 50’s and the apogee of Dr. Strangelove, whose portrait drew heavily on that of H-bomb advocate and, with Stanislaw Ulam,H-bomb inventor,Edward Teller–a man not unknown around the Berkeley labs.

With the Lawrence Livermore laboratories involved, we can be assured of only one thing:  the project will be run over-budget and behind-schedule.  In fact, US auditors confirm the fact:  “Since 2005, when the laser-fusion experiment was isolated in a government program called the National Ignition Campaign, the project has spent more than $2 billion, or 25 percent more than its budget of $1.6 billion, according to the April Government Accountability Office report…
And, in those recent years, the project has fallen a year off schedule, the GAO says, with the expected completion date for the research now at the end of 2012.”

Even if the project succeeds, large scale commercial applications are misty at best.  Climate change and the global energy crisis are real.  Should our tax dollars continue to fund large scale dreams like this when they might more realistically be spent on more promising, near-term solutions like efficient photovoltaic systems, wind farms, or small-scale, safe (relatively speaking) fission reactors?

McAfee Agonistes

Last week’s blunder by McAfee anti-virus caused the wholesale crippling of tens of thousands, if not millions, of computers to crash”  “…McAfee’s faulty virus definition file flagged the Windows system-critical file SVCHOST.EXE as a threat and quarantined it. Among other problems, this had the effect of forcing the computer to shut down every 60 seconds, and preventing USB drives from connecting to the computer. For many users, replacement versions of SVCHOST.EXE had to be copied to CD before they could be used. The original fix was labor-intensive and complicated by the fact that the bad update prevented many affected people from accessing the Internet in the first place. McAfee finally announced a simple tool to apply the fix on Thursday night, but it still requires a second computer to download it, and it cannot be applied remotely” (CNet).

Genius solution:  distribute latest Internet-virus fix over the Internet, make millions; Small problem:  solution suppresses machine’s ability to reach Internet and repair “rogue” genius solution.

Let no one use the phrase “perfect storm” on this one.  Everything gets called a perfect storm.  This one was corporate sloth and neglect.  Sure, anyone can make a mistake, but when you are paid to be the life-and-death guarantor of the means of communications (I’m not kidding.  Many hospitals and police and fire agencies were affected, not to mention just plain old people who had every right to expect things to work correctly).

Why, in light of this incident, a) should people continue to use McAfee; and b) continue to use an outmoded software platform like Windows XP SP3?  CNet offers some alternative anti-virus solutionsMicrosoft and Apple long ago released much improved operating systems.

Jobs’ Way or the Slob’s Way

Steve Jobs has issued an open letter titled “Thoughts on Flash.”  He is referring to Adobe Flash– Adobe, as in the company Jobs recently branded as “lazy“–and specifically for Apple’s non-support  of Flash on its premiere devices, the iPhone, iPod and iPad (if this niche device belongs in that category).

Here is the nub of the argument, neatly summed up by Mr. Jobs:  “Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues.”  His version has it that in reality, Apple does not have a “closed ecosystem” and insist on 100% control of their product platforms.  In reality, they are public spirited good guys who support technology standards for all.  The real “closed” platform is Adobe Flash.

This is Apple speaking, right?

Right.  Mr. Jobs goes to lengths to make is rather lame case.  Reminding of us of a famous US president who quibbled over what is is, Mr. Jobs says it depends on how open open is.  Rather than use Flash, Apple is pushing open standards when it comes to the web:  “Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards.”  Except of course, in their Safari browser.  One gets the feeling that what Mr. Jobs can’t abide is someone else getting there first and gaining a proprietary hold, anyone other than Apple, that is.  What about the Music, Movies and Books Apple is selling over the web?  They surely conform to open standards, like those at Amazon, Project Gutenberg, and Librivox, right?  Hardly.

Sure, we use Flash when we have to, says Mr. Jobs, but “Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.”

Of course there is truth in Jobs’ assertions, but not full truth.  The reason Macs are relatively secure in comparison with PCs is that their market share is so small–about 5% of the home computer market–that it does not pay virus and malware authors to attack them.  If they had the user base Windows machines had, they would be the target.  And, by the way, Macs do to get viruses–or why else is there a Symantec antivirus product for the Mac?  It is not the OS that is more secure, it is the obscurity of the target.

I like Mac and am a Mac user.  I also like Flash and am a Flash user.   Mr. Jobs is wrong in painting Flash as an obsolete relic of the “PC era” that has no place in the “mobile era,” where, of course, he thinks Apple will be king.  Flash does need to be more secure and work on the full range of products consumers want, but that’s a little hard to do when the vendor of those popular products boycotts them more out of pique than out of reason.

We long ago have given up on the dream of an “open” future” in computing–at least in America.  Every large company, in order to be large, must take competitive advantage–and thereby earn profits for their investors–of proprietary systems.  The trick is to get YOUR proprietary systems branded as the “open” systems and your competitors’ as obsolete and obscurantist, which is what Mr. Jobs letter seems to be all about.  If company’s can stake out a portion of the market and yet work symbiotically with their competition consumers will ultimately profit along with the companies.  If not, things just get more insular and rivalries fester into wars, which looks like what has happened between Apple and Adobe.

FCC Plans Broadband for Everyone

We posted recently on an FCC report on those who have and have not adopted broadband access to the Internet:  who they are, how they can be classified, and what the plan is to ‘bring them onboard,’ as it were.  Because the Internet is so important to every aspect of every American’s life, “the Federal Communications Commission… is launching its much-anticipated National Broadband Plan next Tuesday, to lay out its strategy for connecting all Americans to fast, affordable high-speed Internet” (YouTube blog).  After the plan is announced, every American will have the opportunity to participate in questions to the FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, via YouTube.  Questions to Chairman Genachowski can be submitted now at CitizenTube, in either video (preferred method) or text format.  Question categories are:

  • Access and Affordability
  • Mobile and Wireless
  • Security and Privacy
  • Digital Economy
  • Internet in Schools
  • Open Internet / Network Neutrality
  • Others (learn more at

The deadline for question submission is Sunday night March 14 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

In a recent Pew poll/report on “The Future of the Internet,” showed 33% of respondents (industry experts,more or less) expect the Internet to be at least in part controlled by intermediate entities by 2020,rather than the freely available, open Internet we now enjoy.  It is important to get the FCCs take on this and ask the significant questions about net neutrality and open access for all in an open society.

While you’re at the CitizenTube channel, remember to subscribe and follow this important plan/debate as it unfolds.


Several news items this morning are worth blogging on.

First, I noted a CNet news item that Bank of America’s web site was intermittently (?) unavailable last Friday and that the bank used its Twitter feed to let customer’s know that this was the case.  Coincidentally, last Thursday I was attending a largish committee meeting where Twitter came up (actually it was a reference to our department’s use of Twitter) and the reaction among those present was uniformly negative, even hostile.  One of those ‘I don’t know what it is–I’ve never used it–and I don’t like it’ responses.  I see this all the time when referring to Twitter.  The general sense is, ‘who has the time.’

I would (and did) say it a,,) doesn’t take much time and b) when you see something valuable, it can really be the only way to find out on a timely basis.  The BofA announcement is a pretty good example.

The other problem in academia (see my friend Haydn’s blog about “Twitter in Academia“) may well be that users just have not been exposed to the technologies to get Twitter to work for them.  Once they understand that they can get a small, quiet desktop gadget that keeps track of tweets for you, they may want to install it.  I use Twitter Explorer, which is a Windows 7 desktop gadget, but there are other good ones.  The most popular, I think, is Tweetdeck, but this may be more than the casual–or basic–user wants.  Twitter has a page of widgets, gadgets, clients, and add-ons.    If you are an iGoogle user, and I am, I find the twittergadget works well.

If the problem is that you don’t like it but haven’t tried it, get a Twitter account, install one of these tools for following tweets, and start following a few.  I strongly recommend following our Academic Technology twitter feed to keep up to date on technology news that matters for education and our own blog, event, newsletter, screencast and podcast publications.

Follow palomaratrc on Twitter

By the way, if you would rather subscribe to an RSS feed to our tweets and then read them in, for instance, Google Reader, use this subscription URL: