Misc. Browser Links

I’ll post sooner than later (yet this weekend, certainly) about Thanksgiving at home this year, but in the meantime, it’s time once again to post a ton of links to stuff open in my browser that I want to and/or need to come back to sooner than later.  In no particular order here:

Yet another miscellaneous links round-up post

Still have lots of pages open in my browser, and this morning seems like as good as any a morning to try to clear that:

  • From Jakob Nielsen, “Children’s Websites: Usability in Designing for Kids,” which cbd posted a while back.  I don’t always agree with Nielsen’s proclamations about all things internets, but this seems pretty interesting and potentially useful for English 444.
  • Speaking of which:  some of my teaching evaluation reviews from this last summer’s section of English 444 and English 328 were pretty bad, and I think it’s mostly because the 7.5 week summer term makes students kind of crabby, and because this is another short term that comes after the short spring term.  I try to warn students, try to repeat often the mantra of “it isn’t half as long, it’s twice as fast,” but often to no avail.  Next year/this school year, I’m scheduled for spring term teaching, so we’ll see if that makes much difference, and I am also tentatively scheduled to teach a section of 444 this winter as an overload.
  • “Project explores potential for use of iPad in education at Penn State,” which is another story about what the headline suggests.  The one thing that’s a little different/unusual is I sort of know a couple of the people involved with this project.
  • Tweet Library is a software for keeping a Tweet library on an iPad, which is all fine and good, though I personally would prefer to have it on my desktop.
  • Here’s a pretty interesting assignment from Bill Wolff at Rowan University, “wrtf10 assignment 2: mixin’, mashin’, and remixin’.” There’s a couple of different things I can steal/borrow here for stuff students are doing this term in both 328 and 121.
  • I don’t know exactly how much this matters, but here’s a link to a blog that links to a site called Haltadefinizione, which has super-duper high resolution/detailed images of some famous paintings.

My iPad, a (little over) six months later

A few thoughts on iPad ownership, just over six months since it came out and I bought one (well, Leslie bought one for me and I bought it from her), in no particular order (other than I have piled up some links as of late on this):

  • I’ve shown this to students in my in-class version of English 121, to my informal gatherings with grad students, and with other students I’ve met with in my office for one reason or another, and they are generally unimpressed.  I’m not entirely sure what that means, other than there is still a fairly hard-core less than interested adopters out there in a segment of the population I would think might be interested in these things.
  • The iPad has taken off at a lightening-quick pace.  At this rate, a) my students will be sold on the usefulness of these things soon, and b) textbook companies had better start thinking about ways to take advantage of these things.
  • The iPad is not a substitute for a computer, and now that the fall term is well underway, I find myself using my laptop a lot more than I did over the spring/summer.  There are certain things that I need to do with my laptop in my teaching that would be more trouble than it is worth with my iPad.  I mention this in part because I had a link at one point (I think I misplaced it now) where a college was giving students the choice of getting (as part of their “package” of some sort– this was a small and expensive school) either an iPad or a laptop and the college was surprised at the number of students who wanted the laptop.  Well, DUH! My iPad can do lots of cool things, but not as many as my laptop or my desktop.
  • The iPad can create content, and here’s a link to a good article about “10 Ways People Are Using The iPad To Create Content, Not Just Consume It.” What’s interesting here is that the people who are using the iPad to create tend not to be writers– that is, the iPad is really good for painting, mixing music, editing photos, DJ-ing, etc.
  • That said, here’s a good and interesting link called “iPad Apps For Writers.” I had my own thoughts of the iPad as a writerly device way back when, but I think that purpose and “space” is everything here.  As I wrote before, I do much/most of my writing (including this post) at my desk and on a desktop computer.  As I’ve mentioned already, I tend to use a laptop at school most often because of its functionality and its usefulness for typing stuff in a meeting or whatever.  But I do like taking my iPad and my keyboard to a coffee shop once in a while, too.
  • I read on my iPad a fair amount (see below), but those bastards at WIRED are still dead to me.  And, from what I read, there’s still a lot of fuzziness and confusion about how a newspaper or magazine subscription via the iPad might work.  This is a shame.  The publishing industry dubbed this thing the Jesus tablet because they saw it as a way of saving them, and it just might– if the greedy publishing bastards and the greedy Apple bastards could just come to term.
  • What do I use my iPad for, you ask?  I like the email interface quite a bit.  I do some light web browsing, and while the lack of Flash is an issue, not huge.  Weatherbug.  Facebook. Kayak (great app). Calendar.  Facebook.  Keynote (probably more than Pages). I like “Reader” as an RSS feed reader quite a bit too.  But…
  • … my “killer app” remains iAnnotate, and while my students generally don’t get the point of this thing, when I show them iAnnotate and the PDFs I’ve assigned for our classes, there is a bit of a light bulb moment.  It is an excellent app.  Seriously, this is a revelation/revolution for me about reading these kinds of documents.  I’ll never work with nasty paper photocopies again.
  • And I like the Kindle and the iBooks apps quite a bit too, especially while reading in bed in the dark.  Which I’m soon going to go do.

And in more link catching up news

Again, in no particular order– just things I want to keep track of that I have left open in my browser for a while now:

  • “Reading in a Whole New Way,” which is a very readable/accessible piece about how technology has altered the sense of “book,” from Smithsonian.com. And this is a link to the article itself, where there is worry about the iPad.
  • Speaking of which:  “Revisualizing Composition:  Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year College Students” is a WIDE whitepaper/study about the way that students use writing technologies to write in different aspects of their lives.  There’s a lot here, but I was struck by the idea that students write as often for “personal fulfillment” (with Facebook, texting, etc.) than for school.
  • “Nine Important Trends in the Evolution of Digital Textbooks and E-learning Content,” from something called “xplana.”  I think these trends are debatable at best, but I like things that speculate about the future of publishing, especially when they are horribly wrong.
  • I really liked this cbd post “Taking Notes,” and I wanted to keep a link– a note?– of it for future reference.  Lots of good stuff here.
  • To be honest, I don’t know if this is worth passing on, but I will anyway:  From Inside Higher Ed, “An Adjunct’s Novel,” which in some ways seems amusing but in many ways seems rather predictable to me.
  • Here’s a link to an iPhone app I might try out later, something called the Sleep Cycle alarm clock. Though the whole thing seems a bit problematic to me.  First off, I set an alarm for a particular time not because it is the “best time” for me to necessarily wake up, but because it is the time that I logistically need to wake up to go on with my day.  Second, I don’t get how this app could possibly work, and I guess what bothers me most is that the reviews suggest that it does indeed work.
  • I might get this book called The Whuffie Factor:  Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business because it does sound pretty interesting.  But to be honest, between stuff I’m reading for school and for fun right now, this is going to have to go down the list a bit. Still, for the Kindle (iPad, of course) edition, it might be worth it for the next time I’m on a plane.
  • What’s the point of an iPad?  How might it be used in the “real world?”  Here’s a link from Apple to tell us. I’ve pulled my iPad out a couple of times in my first year composition class and what I think is interesting is that my students in that class seem pretty dismissive of its usefulness.  So much for “digital natives” understanding this stuff so much better.
  • Speaking (again and again!) of the iPad:  I recently won an iShine give-away from PadGadget by being early enough on Twitter to retreat an article from the site PadGadget.  Here’s a review of the iShine, which I mostly agree with.  I prefer to have my iPad in its Apple case because it’s easier to prop it up and such, but the iShine bag is handy and easy too.
  • Finally, this is something I really ought to do with my laptop:  from Lifehacker comes “Starting from Scratch:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Reinstalling Your OS.”

iPad-themed (with Logorama) catch-up post

This has been a busy week and a half (give or take) with school and life, and I’ve starred a bunch of stuff in my Google reader to go back to and post eventually, mostly iPad related.  In no particular order, here they are:

There was another article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that I can’t find the link for about how iPads are being used in universities, mostly misused as far as I can tell.  There was some school where they gave students the choice of having either a laptop or an iPad and they seem surprised at the number of people who chose the laptop.  Well, that’s a no-brainer to me.  I still get asked on a fairly regular basis what I think of my iPad, and while I like it a lot, it is not a replacement for a computer.  I could probably live without a laptop with my iPad because I have a desktop computer, but an iPad is not a substitute for a computer.  What I have mostly enjoyed my iPad for as far as school goes lately is just reading and marking up the PDFs I am teaching. iAnnotate is my killer app.

And on a completely unrelated note, here’s a link to the completely excellent short film Logorama:

Logorama from Human Music & Sound Design on Vimeo.

Apple (apparently) thinks books and apps are two different things

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article on the blog/web side Dvice, “You shouldn’t care about Apple easing up on Flash apps.” My friend (and the folks at Dvice) are mostly interested in some of the ways in which Apple is not really easing up on Flash and also some of the kind of snarky language from Apple about their guidelines, much of which I agree with– they don’t need any more fart apps, for example.  Here’s a link to an endgadget article on all this.

But the last paragraph in the Dvice post is kind of interesting to me:

Our favorite: “We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.”

It can get complicated indeed.  For example, what if you wanted to create a book that was critical of a particular religion– the Catholics for child abuse, the Scientologists for being kind of goofy, whatever– and you decided that words in a row were not enough, and you wanted to create a more interactive text, something with audio and video, something that could be manipulated more by the reader.  Unless I’m missing something, that means by definition that you’re creating something that is not an iBook or a Kindle book.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m not completely against Apple’s desire to filter and censor some materials it wants to sell.  Every retailer does that, though with Apple’s monopoly of selling stuff for their devices, perhaps they should be willing to be more open-minded and inclusive.  What I am questioning though is this passage’s easy definition of a book.  Seems to me that Apple already sells a lot of apps that are really books and that are evidence enough about the fuzziness of the boundaries between “book” and “app.”

Three brief thoughts on burning the Koran

You have perhaps heard this story, about the nut-jobs in Florida (so many of them are in Florida) who are going to have a “Koran burning” on 9/11.  See, for example, “Pastor’s Plan to Burn Korans Adds to Tensions” from the New York Times from a couple weeks back.  At least three things occur to me, each of which has something to do with my line of work (well, sort of at least):

  • If it were not for Web 2.0/social media and the 24/7 news cycle, no one would have ever heard of these crazy people.  In other words, this is a highly “immediate” rhetorical situation, as I discussed in the Diss oh so many years ago, and it is yet another example of how technology directly impacts the ways in which rhetorical situations are processed by rhetors, audiences, and messages themselves.  Technology gives much, but it also causes bat-shit crazy stuff like this.  In any event, one wonders what would happen if this whole thing had simply been ignored, if we thought more carefully about the exigence for this situation, if this would even be possible before cable news, etc.
  • I am reminded of the flag burning debates of a few years ago with all of this.  Sure, this has a distinctly different flavor in the shadow of 9/11 and “war(s) on terrorism,” the non-issue of the Burlington Coat Factory turned  mosque/community center somehow vaguely near “ground zero,” and just a sort of general ill-placed fear of “Islam,” which is at least as diverse a religion as “Christianity.”  But I am also reminded of a Miss Manners article way back when, in which the always delightful writer Judith Martin pointed out that there was no point in legislating against flag burning because the reason why someone burned flags was to make a point by being terribly rude.  Of course, this is extra-über rude, but still.
  • Finally, this once again speaks to the extreme importance of the materiality of the book, and by “the book,” I mean the old-fashioned codex book, paper pages, pagination, a cover, the whole nine yards.  I don’t mean the Kindle or the iPad, and I hasten to add here that I really do like (love might be too strong) the reading experience on my iPad a lot.  I’m reading a couple of books on it right now, and I am going to be preparing for a day of getting some articles I’m teaching on my iPad after I finish this post.  Obviously, electronic reading and writing has an incredible power (see observation #1).However, if these crazy people got together and said “hey, we’re going to burn this here Kindle with the Koran on it,” or “we’re all gonna bring our laptops and erase our copies of the Koran all at the same time,” no one would have given a shit about that.  Not even a little bit.   What’s got everyone all excited is that these things are the actual and material thing that was previously the only definition of “book,” and they really will burn and give off flames, smoke, and heat.  Never mind that there are millions of other copies of the Koran, so it’s not like these people will have any real potential to damage the religion.

A few miscellaneous thoughts on eReading and annotating

I have in mind a few more blog posts over the next few days about the end of the summer term/beginning of my 13th school year at EMU, but I’ll start this morning with some of the things/links/thoughts I’ve come across lately about publishing, reading, and writing.  Most of these have been left open in my browser for well over a week, and it’s time to clear them out.  And the clean the desk and then the kitchen.

First, there’s this helpful info-graphic, I believe from Newsweek:

Click on it to read it more clearly. Much more after the jump.

Continue reading “A few miscellaneous thoughts on eReading and annotating”

WIRED, you’re dead to me

And it’s not because of all the stupid “The Web is Dead” stuff, either– though I guess that’s part of it.  No, I am thinking of the still not complete saga of how WIRED screwed me out of my iPad application, which began back in early July and which still continues.  This has been a lot to go through for a five dollar app.  Anyway, after the jump, most of the story, but the moral of the story here is crappy customer service is a bad thing.

Continue reading “WIRED, you’re dead to me”

Two generally unrelated thoughts on changes to copyright

I don’t follow copyright/DMCA issues that closely, but there was apparently an important decision from some changes to interpretations to the law.  Here’s a link with the technical stuff. The two changes I’ve read about so far are it is now legal get around various copy-protection schemes on materials like movies for educational purposes, and it is also now legal (at least according this link) to “jailbreak” an iPhone.

My two thoughts:

First, Copyright law, always complex and mushy and interpretable, is widely misunderstood and/or ignored in academia.  It is by me.  Take eReserves, for example, something I was discussing with a colleague the other day in relation to course packs.  At EMU, eReserves is the library’s “electronic reserve” system that allows someone like me to put various copyright-protected materials “on reserve” in the form of PDFs that students can download for free.   Many institutions have such systems.  The advantage of eReserves for me is I can add and subtract readings whenever, including the middle of the term (that’s just flat-out impossible with a course pack), and “free” is obviously much cheaper than even the most inexpensive course pack.  But as I understand it, it is actually illegal to repeatedly make available for free some copyright-protected text via this system.  In other words, with essays I teach pretty much every term, like Walter Ong’s “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought,” I’m supposed to put that into a course pack so that the copyright is cleared and students pay the royalty.  Another example:  as I understand it, if I show a movie in a class, I’m technically supposed to pay the copyright holders of that film some sort of screening fee, unless I’m showing something that the university has already paid some sort of royalty on already.  (I may be very wrong about this one).

The point is this:  I don’t know anyone who treats eReserves this way, I wouldn’t even think of asking for permission to show a movie in a class, and I don’t really care about these potential copyright violations for admittedly mushy and ignorant reasons.  The way I figure it, no one is going to sue me over eReserves or showing a movie in a class or committing any other copyright crime; at worse, they are going to send me a “cease and desist” letter.  Instead of worrying about the legal ramifications of getting various permissions for use of these materials in my classes, I worry about how reading the things I assign might actually “teach” my students something.  Let the lawyers sort out the copyright violations.

Second, I have been thinking lately about jailbreaking my iPhone.  As most 3G users know, the new iPhone 4 operating system slows and/or crashes older phones.  Quite a bit, actually.  Eventually, I’ll get a new phone, though I am not entirely sure when.  On the “early-side,” maybe I’ll try to justify the iPhone 4 as some sort of Christmas present; on the “late-side,” maybe I’ll hold out for whatever is next (iPhone 5? iPhone 4S?), which, according to MacRumors (they say that the average “update” cycle for the iPhone is 218 days), would probably be sometime between about March and May 2011.  So in the meantime, I kind of feel like I have nothing to lose with attempting the various jailbreak options that are out there; heck, it might even help my older phone work “better.”