December 20, 2008

Ready for take-off

Our flight from Chicago to Amsterdam is delayed somewhat, but we're
boarded & ready for take-off. Poland--here we come!

November 20, 2008

Did You Know 3.0

This doesn't seem to be an official release involving Karl Fisch or Scott McLeod, but I like it!

November 18, 2008

Blame Game

Why do republicans always blame the media? They need to stop blaming the media and take a critical look at their own track record in the white house and congress during 6 of these past 8 years. Blaming the media is just an excuse for failing to critically examine themselves and the candidates they nominate. They just can't admit that Obama won on the issues--that words matter. As an economic crisis unfolded, John McCain said repeatedly that the fundamentals of our economy were strong. Sarah Palin didn't say she could see Russia from her house, but she said as much in her own inarticulate words. The proximity of Alaska to Russia was her main claim to foreign policy experience. Why is anyone surprised that statements like these (not to mention the shameless attempts by the McCain campaign to incite prejudice and fear) would have a negative impact on the republican ticket?

October 13, 2008

Lula and the Petting Zoo

As you can see, delicate she ain't. :-)

October 11, 2008

Nonlinear Presentation Tools

I'm so jealous of Chuck Todd (MSNBC) and John King (CNN) who get to dazzle us with their fancy interactive displays. It's mesmerizing watching them use these non-linear presentation tools to help us understand the polls and electorate map.

The other day, someone on Twitter described their newest pet peeve--watching someone present about 21st century skills using 20th century techniques. That is annoying---and it's something I've been doing myself. In fact, that's been bugging me lately.

Traditional PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations just aren't good enough these days to engage an audience, especially one comprised of 20 somethings or younger. Yes, people can be creative and spice up their presentations using PowerPoint and strategies to foster discussion, etc. Interactive whiteboards and even something like Inspiration software could be used creatively as a presentation tool. But, I still want that cool board that Chuck and John keep rubbing in my face on TV.

Not long ago, Microsoft unveiled Surface, their new interactive, touchscreen, multi-gesture, eye candy of a display board (actually, it's what Chuck Todd uses on MSNBC). It looked amazing to me, but I was really skeptical that we'd see it in schools anytime soon. Well, I'm starting to reconsider that assumption.

I think we may see the software that drives the interactive whiteboards and displays being used in classrooms integrate more use of gestures as part of their user interface. Since the iPhone, we've already seen an increase in the number of portable electronics that have a touchscreen capable of using gestures such as swipe or pinch. Check out the T850 from BenQ, for example. Very cool!

How great would it be to add these features to PowerPoint or keynote? Or better yet, give us a new Web 2.0 tool for creating interactive nonlinear presentations right in our browser!

Well, I'm really excited about a promising new solution I discovered this morning--ZuiPrezi (Hungarian?). I requested to help be a beta tester, and I'm super excited about the possibility of trying to use it for one of my upcoming presentations. It looks intuitive, extremely capable, and best of all--mesmerizing! Check it out for yourself--tryout their interactive demo or view some of the examples.

October 9, 2008

Common Sense: Wikipedia

Wow, what a great video! And the website has a bunch of similar videos on topics including Facebook, Political Ads, Sex & Media, and more! Watch this video, then check out their website.

Tom Friedman on Palin, McCain

Great Op-Ed piece by Tom Friedman today on Sarah Palin's politics and John McCain's reckless VP choice. Friedman writes...
I only wish she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Whether or not I agree with John McCain, he is of presidential timber. But putting the country in the position where a total novice like Sarah Palin could be asked to steer us through possibly the most serious economic crisis of our lives is flat out reckless.

Click here to read the full article.

October 8, 2008

Online, Social, Collaborative Comic Strip Creator

Wow, I just learned about this very intriguing online comic strip creator--Pixton. Thanks to Twitter users @jdornberg and @monarchlibrary

October 6, 2008

Missing iPhone Features

I've been using my iPhone 3G for a couple of weeks now--long enough to
get used to the keyboard, thankfully, and also to compile the
following list of missing features. Now, I'm hoping that some of these
"missing" features are just hidden features that I've yet to discover.
If that's the case, please post a comment to correct me & point me in
the right direction. BTW, overall I'm extremely pleased with my iPhone
& even the AT&T service. I'm composing this blog entry on my iPhone
from a waiting room, in fact.

The List:

  1. Is Bluetooth crippled??? I can't send photo, contacts, etc, via
  2. Bluetooth?
  3. No search, especially in iCal, Notes?
  4. No copy/paste?
  5. Where are my todo items from iCal?
  6. No select? Why can't I double-click or click n drag to highlight text?
  7. I should be able to send a URL from Safari to Mail or other apps.
  8. Maps: I'd like to rotate screen for horizontal view like safari &
  9. photos.
  10. External keyboard support would be nice--bluetooth keyboard or something to use during meetings.
  11. Inline spellcheck (auto complete/correct is good a start).
  12. Camera is good, but no flash?
  13. No option to record video? What's up with that?

October 2, 2008

Great tips for using your computer

Another David Pogue referral... He just posted "Tech Tips for the Basic Computer User" on his blog. Hey, is that a nice way of saying Tech Tips for Dummies? Well, in any event, these tips are good, and they apply to a much wider audience than just novices. For example...

Google is also a units-of-measurement and currency converter. Type “teaspoons in 1.3 gallons,” for example, or “euros in 17 dollars.” Click Search to see the answer.

September 28, 2008

Discovering Autumn

The leaves are really starting to fall this weekend. Lucy likes it.
She walked all the way around the block yesterday, fascinated by all
she discovered along the way.

September 27, 2008

A Comma Worth Millions

Maciej directed me to this article. Why does this sentence haunt Rogers Communications Inc? Read the full story to learn what's grammatically inaccurate about it.
"The agreement shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

September 22, 2008

We got new Mobile phones

Magda got the LG Shine & I got an iPhone. So far loving them, except
I'm struggling to be proficient with the keypad & our Bluetooth is a
bit flaky. More reports to follow.

September 17, 2008

Advantages of NetBooks

Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs or netbooks) are catching on quickly. These smaller and cheaper laptops are actually being developed for "emerging markets" (i.e., developing nations), but they are capturing the interest of many educators who particularly like their price, open-source nature, durability and physical appeal. More and more educators are looking towards netbooks as an affordable and exciting way to achieve a 1:1 ration of students to computers. Jim Dornberg just posted a good review of his new Acer Aspire 1 netbook. It's a brief but good overview of many features and potential advantages of netbooks.

September 14, 2008

Google's Chrome Browser

David Pogue recently published a great overview of Chrome, the new open-source web browser from Google. As Pogue describes, many of Chromes features are neither new nor innovative--the same features have been provided by Safari, Firefox and Opera browsers. But that doesn't detract from the value or potential of Chrome. To the contrary, Google has brought together some of the best featues of other browsers AND expanded upon them with better security, performance, and some truly innovative and exciting new features. 

One of my favorite features is forehead-slapping simple--"create application shortcuts". This creates shortcut icons on the desktop, start menu or quick-launch bar of Windows for the current site. But these shortcuts don't just open a browser window. Rather, they open in a seemingly "browserless" window that makes web-based apps and Web 2.0 services look and feel more like traditional desktop-based software. Do this for sites like Picnik and Gliffy, along with Google apps like gmail, docs, calendar, sites, reader, iGoogle, Blogger, etc., and you've basically got a fully-functional computer that, as long as you have an internet connection, requires no other software than an operating system and Chrome

While I suspect only early-adopters and keen web developers have begun using it so far, I predict that future releases and word of mouth will garner Chrome a marketshare that rivals or suprasses Firefox and other popular browsers. I can't wait for the Mac and Linux versions of Chrome to be released soon. 

August 31, 2008

As hurricane Gustav approaches the Louisiana coastline, including New Orleans, some folks are sharing the view from their location via, a website that allows anyone to stream live video from their computer for free. At any given time, there are hundreds of live streams and thousands of archived events available. Just search for a term such as Gustav or Hurricane. Here's a live view from Slidell, Louisiana (at least, until these people lose their power or internet service).

Streaming live video by Ustream

Sites like Ustream, blipTV, Mogulus, Kyte, and provide a remarkable opportunity for anyone to broadcast live events with little more than their computer and webcam (which is becoming a ubiquitous integrated option with laptops). This new platform empowers individuals and organizations to broadcast their message to a global audience--for free. For example, I saw dozens of churches broadcasting their Sunday morning services live on Ustream this morning. The Obama campaign has been simulcasting live campaign events on Ustream for months, and I've seen people like Bernie Dodge share conference presentations in real time along with an integrated chat that creates a powerful backchannel to engage people both locally and at a distance. Now, even makes it possible to stream such live video from many cell phones!

This is a truly an amazing new platform which has emerged over the past couple of years--one that many will embrace and some will find quite threatening or intimidating. Personally, I can't wait to see who starts using it next and how it transforms the way we communicate with each other.

August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Tina Fey Factor

On the day they introduced their VP candidate, the McCain campaign apparently decided to change the presentation of Sarah Palin on its website. I wonder what prompted the change--was it perhaps the humorous comparisons of her to Tina Fey (here's another one, yet another one, oh, and one more) that began circulating the same day?

August 24, 2008

My Fav Free Windows Apps

Here are some of my favorite free applications for Windows XP and Vista. Happy to receive your suggestions as well. FYI, click here to view my fav free Mac apps.

Firefox web browser

Safari browser (really is fast and attractive interface)

Thunderbird email client

iTunes (of course, especially for podcasts, free single of the week, and iTunes U)

Free RSS Reader

Free alternative to MS Office

Skype instant messaging and video conferencing

Second Life virtual world

Picnik (no software to download here, just a great web service for easy and capable image editing)

Free anti-virus security software

Free theft recovery

Free (& less annoying) alternative to Adobe Reader for viewing PDF files

Cute PDF (free app to print almost any document to a PDF file)

Real Alternative - Free (& less annoying) alternative to Real Player

Free alternative to Zip compression and uncompression

Core FTP Lite (free FTP and Secure-FTP or SFTP client)

Kompozer (free HTML editor with capable CSS editor built-in)

MPEG Streamclip (video converter, can download YouTube videos too)

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free and very functional Photoshop alternative

August 20, 2008

Laptops for all 6-12 students in Central City

Students in grades 6-12 preparing for a new school year in Central City, IA, each received a new Apple MacBook laptop yesterday--theirs to use and care for both at school and at home. The Central City School District launched one of Iowa's latest examples of a 1:1 initiative (i.e., 1 computer per student ratio). In fact, Central City becomes the first Iowa district to provide laptops to all students in grades 6-12 (other Iowa schools have adopted laptops in one or more grades of middle school or high school, but none have yet involved as many as seven grade levels).

As reported by local media back in March, the project is funded with Linn County SILO funds and also includes the purchase of mobile wireless labs (carts with 20 laptops each) for each Elementary grade (K-5).

August 11, 2008

Britney and McCain in 2008

1,793,112 views so far... pretty funny stuff.

August 8, 2008

Google Teacher Academy coming to Chicago

K-12 teachers--Here's your chance to become a Google Certified Teacher! The next Google Teacher Academy, a free one-day professional development opportunity from Google, is coming to Chicago on September 24, 2008. Hurry--applications are due by August 24, and your application must include an original 1-minute video. Click here for details

August 4, 2008

Wikis for internal collaboration

The New York Times today has a brief interesting article about Diplopedia, the internal wiki developed and used by the US State Department. If the State Dept can successfully use a wiki to encourage modern collaboration among its employees, why don't more schools and universities embrace wikis as a tool to promote change, map curriculum, encourage professional development, model 21st century skills, strengthen missions and strategic plans, and, perhaps best of all, reduce the number of face-to-face meetings we all attend? 

Wikispaces makes it easy to add internal wikis to an organization using their Private Label service. 

Font Conference - Hilarious!

This is a really funny video for you font connoisseurs--or, actually, anyone who's ever used a word processor. If the video is clipped-off below, then use this link to view it.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

July 19, 2008

Mr and Mrs Kaminsky

Congratulations, Maciej and Erin Kaminsky, married July 19, 2008. So happy that Magda and I could be part of your special day. Let the party begin!

Update: More pictures are now available--click here. Love this one of Magda, Lucy and me.

July 7, 2008

New great stop in Stockton, IL

We're on our way home from a great 4th of July weekend in Chicago, and we just stopped at a great new pit stop about half-way. Stone Cabin Coffee recently opened on the East end of Stockton, IL, along HWY 20. It's a really nice coffee shop with two levels of comfy seating (big leather sofas and coffee tables), free Wi-Fi, and good drinks. It's a really nice place to take a break and feed Lucy. I predict this is going to become a regular pit stop for us in the future!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

June 30, 2008

Free Mac Software

I just replied to a request for recommended free Macintosh software at the NECC 2008 Ning site. I figured I might as well repurpose this information, so here goes... My favorite free Mac apps:

Adium - IM client, works with multiple services
Camino browser
CamTwist: broadcast your desktop as a video source in skype, etc (though not iChat)
CocoThumbX: Great utility for creating thumbnail images of files including BMP, TIFF, GIF, PNG, JPG, PICT, PDF, EPS, DOC, RTF, RTFD, HTML, CSS, TXT and QuickTime supported Movies.
Cyberduck: FTP and SFTP client
EasyFind: Even faster than Spotlight
Firefox browser
Flock browser: The social browser
Flip4Mac: Play WMA and WMV files in QuickTime Player--no need for Windows Media Player!
iSquint: Convert video files for iPod or other handhelds
Jing: Free screen capture (still image and video) for Mac & PC
Joost: Internet TV
KompoZer: A more recent spin-off of Netscape Composer, then Mozilla Composer, then Nvu, now KompoZer--very good built-in CSS editor for newbies
MacTracker: Know everything about your Macs (and all others)
MeBeam: No software to download, just enter a room name to video conference with multiple people for free!
Miro: Internet TV (and video podcasts, torrents, etc.)
Mousepose: OK, this one ain't free, but it's worth the price for highlighting areas of your screen for demos and screencasts!
NeoOffice: OpenOffice for Mac (free alternative to MS Office)
Opera browser
Paparazzi: Easily create screen captures of full web pages
SecondLife: Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE)
Skype: VoIP and video conferencing solution
ThumbsUp: Another great thumbnail maker for files
Thunderbird: Great alternative to OS Mail, a Mozilla project
Transmission: BitTorrent client
Jiggler: Jiggle the mouse at specified intervals to keep your Mac from sleeping
Onyx: Enable hidden features of OS X or run maintenance scripts.
SuperDuper: Backup utility software, create a bootable clone of your startup disk.
Vienna: Free RSS/Atom newsreader
VLC: Video player, plays multiple video formats
Web Minimalist: Great simple and free HTML editor with built-in preview--excellent for teaching HTML and web design
YemuZip: Great Zip compression utility, create Zip files in native PC or Mac formats
Blogged with the Flock Browser

June 29, 2008

Why 13 percent think Obama is Muslim

Who is responsible for the baseless email smear campaign claiming Barack Obama is a Muslim? You know, the various emails claiming that Obama was born into Islam, isn't a real Christian, is hiding a radical Islamic upbringing, or that he chose to be sworn into the US Senate with a Koran--all misinformation designed to undermine the Democratic presidential candidate. Look, there's Dick Cheney posing with a Koran!

The Washington Post reports on the attempts of Dr. Danielle Allen, a political theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study, to trace the origin(s) of these email chains. Interestingly, some of her first clues emerged as the result of simply Googling some of the more unusual phrases contained in the various emails. The changing terminology and addition or subtraction of certain claims in the malicious email messages seemed synchronized with certain individuals' contributions to the FreeRepublic website. Dr. Allen's investigative journey highlights both the ease and complexity involved with spreading misinformation via the internet. The article also quotes the man who credits himself as the first to label Obama a Muslim back in 2004, Andy Martin, a former Illinois political opponent of Obama.

This smear campaign isn't new, of course. Such nefarious emails followed Obama throughout the primary process, coincidentally surging in states with upcoming primaries or caucuses. One would think that such an obvious attempt to Swiftboat the candidate would by now have run its course. However, as the Washington Post article reports, polls suggest the number of voters who believe Obama is a Muslim is actually increasing (from 8 percent of voters in November of 2007 to 13 percent in March, 2008). So, expect to see more of these deplorable rumors and insinuations to arrive in your inbox during the general election.

Democrats should fight back. Direct people to websites like and, but don't stop there! Perhaps we should start publishing the email addresses of the people who send us such emails. We could use our blogs, YouTube, social networks, Flickr, wikis, and numerous other Web 2.0 tools to expose the persons who are actively spreading these baseless rumors and misinformation. Let them receive a barrage of replies to provide clarity of the facts--and their own morality.

June 25, 2008

Road trip

A trip to Ocracoke it ain't, but we're on the way to Grandma's. We realized Lucy's highchair (Chicco brand) was easy enough to pull out of the trunk and use at this rest area. I'm checking my email, using Twitter mobile (, and Blogger from my cell phone while Lucy eats. Life is good with the mobile web!

June 19, 2008

Comparing midwest floods to Katrina

I've noticed emails like this begin to circulate. They make me mad.

> Subject: Flooding in Iowa/Illinois
> "I have been reading about and seeing the devastation of the floods in
> Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. It is terrible. I have heard it compared to
> the devastation of Katrina. One thing I haven't noticed. I have not
> noticed anyone blaming President Bush. I have not noted any looting. I
> have not noted anyone spending any money vouchers on Tattoos, Body
> Piercings, Drugs, or Parties. I have noticed people helping each other and
> working together. Not just sitting around and waiting for some Government
> Agency to bail them out and give them a bunch of freebies, and then
> complaining that what they are given is not enough. Perhaps the Press has
> just missed that. Can anyone explain this?"

This is a hillbilly comparison--and, frankly, racist. There's a big difference between A) abandoning thousands of people for days without water, shelter or adequate security while the incompetent cronies that President Bush hired to run federal agencies debated what they could or should do and B) responding immediately to provide shelters, FEMA trailers, the national guard, and other agencies to make sure that people in the midwest have been safeguarded during (even before) the floods.

I'm proud of the way Iowans have responded to our local disasters, but that does not change the fact the local, state and federal governments failed miserably to serve the victims of Katrina. Even President Bush himself has acknowledged that our government did not respond appropriately to that disaster.

June 16, 2008

Here on campus!

Having a great time with 17 students in our new IT Masters 2008 cohort. This morning, we've been exploring some mobile tools like GOOG-411 and SMS.

May 16, 2008

Looking for pictures?

If you know us very well, then you know that Magda is much better about taking and organizing our family photos. Bookmark the albums page of Magda's website, because that's where you're gonna find the best pictures of Lucy, etc. For example, check-out the Spring collection.

OLPC embraces Windows

The New York Times reports that the OLPC project and its founder, Nicholas Negroponte, have decided to adopt the Windows operating system for their XO laptop. Apparently, Negroponte is convinced that developing nations are not as interested in the XO laptop running open-source software and would prefer a "familiar" Windows operating system. This is stunning to me, because the truly innovative open-source operating system (Sugar) which currently runs on the XO laptop was designed from the ground up to empower people who have never used a computer before--who are perhaps even illiterate. It's really disappointing to see ground breaking innovation and what I believed to be one of the main pillars of the project, its open-source nature, thrown out the window to conform with some perceived norm which is Windows. It's ironically sad that the project which inspired a whole new genre of ultra-mobile PCs, most running open-source Linux operating systems which have much more modest hardware requirements, has now itself turned its back on the very same open-source community that played such a critical role in developing the XO laptop. 

To be fair, OLPC says that it will continue to offer the Sugar operating system as an alternative to the Windows version which is said to be available in September. Clearly, Nicholas Negroponte believes he can sell more machines to developing nations with the lure of Windows, but I dare say Negroponte has derailed the OLPC project and done it irreparable harm by betraying the community which helped him develop the first XO laptop.

April 12, 2008

Flock for Blogger

I started using Flock again, and I'm really preferring it to a standard browser for posting to my blog. Blogger's WYSIWYG editor is adequate, but frustrating. For example, things flake out for me sometimes when I'm creating hyperlinks, and there's seems to be no easy way to remove or discontinue a link. Inserting images is royal pain, because new images always seem to appear at the very top of a post, no matter where I've positioned the cursor at the beginning of the process. Argh!

Flock is a spin-off of the Firefox browser described by its creators as "the social web browser". Available as a free download for Macintosh, Windows, and Linux platforms, Flock is unique among a sea of browser options, because it cleverly integrates an impressive number of social networking tools. While it might be handy for the occasional Facebook or MySpace user, it's incredibly useful for people who use many social networking tools and web-based services. Flock gives us easy access to them all simultaneously. Sign-in to your favorite services and networks like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Picasa, Flickr, YouTube, Blogger, WordPress, Xanga,, etc., and Flock will offer to remember these accounts and integrate them into the sidebar and media browser thereafter. That means you can follow your Twitter updates and Facebook friends right in the sidebar--no need to visit those sites to get the latest information and media. You can view media streams from Facebook, Picasa, Flickr and YouTube, compose new Gmail or blog posts, and follow RSS feeds from virtually any source all while using other websites in the main browser.

As you can see in the screen capture above, I'm using Flock's blog editor now to compose this post, and it works great! I just dragged in the picture from my Picasa media browser. As I write this, I see there are some updates in my Twitter feed and new Facebook activity displaced in the sidebar. Everything seems to work well and feels much more responsive than using Blogger's editor. I think this is going to be habit forming.

If you haven't tried it yet, I encourage you to download Flock or at least read more about its features. Version 1.1. is already very impressive and way ahead of other browsers in terms of networking and media features. That being said, I hope they'll soon add even more integration features with other services I use, including Ning, Picnik, and Google Docs or Zoho.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

April 1, 2008


A great example of convergence in the mobile phone market.

March 29, 2008

Spring is in the air

The weather is getting nicer, and Spring is on the way!

Earth Hour

Google turned out the lights on their home page today to encourage people to participate in Earth Hour from 8:00 - 9:00 in their local time zone. Says their page...

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, Earth Hour invites people around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – from 8:00pm to 9:00pm in their local time zone. On this day, cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Chicago, Melbourne, Dubai, and Tel Aviv, will hold events to acknowledge their commitment to energy conservation.

It's an easy idea--turn out your lights for an hour tonight (a good time to watch a movie in the dark, I guess) to help conserve energy. The Climate Savers Computing Initiative website provides directions for using the energy saving features of your computer. Many people don't realize how much energy computers actually conserve or that many power adapters for rechargeable electronics consume energy when plugged in even when not connected to the device they charge. Judging by the load times of the CSCI website, it seems a lot of people are following the link from the Google home page today.

What's odd, though, is that while Google describes this as a global awareness initiative, Google's international home pages don't seem to be participating. Here are pictures of the Polish (, French (, and Japanese ( versions of the Google home page today.

March 16, 2008


Many new photos now included in the slide show.

March 14, 2008

Making Street View

Look what I just saw at a gas station outside Chicago! Ever wonder how Google creates those street views? Checkout the cameras in that dome and the satellite/GPS unit mounted behind it.

March 11, 2008

Twitter and micro-blogging

Wondering what all the fuss is about Twitter? Lee Lefever from the CommonCraft Show has posted another great video in his Plain English series breaking down this popular micro-blogging service and explaining why so many people (me included) enjoy using it.

Judging by the comments at YouTube, there remains a lot of confusion and misconceptions about what Twitter is and why people use it. While it is described as a social networking tool, I think Twitter is actually a pretty great professional development and networking tool. I've discovered many interesting resources, ideas, and events by following peoples' twitter updates. I've seen questions and calls for help met by a mass of followers (and their followers) and resolved in mere seconds or minutes. That's much more efficient and productive than possible using email or web forums. It's also just fascinating and informative to "shadow" people to see what they're thinking and what they're doing. Imagine the benefits to students, educators or other professionals who can receive professional development in their pocket simply by following the updates of people they admire in the field.

Because Twitter updates can be sent and received via mobile phones, web browsers, instant messaging clients or other 3rd party apps, people can communicate with each other in ways previously unimagined. For example, Twitter has become a popular way to communicate during professional conferences-it allows organizers to immediately distribute information to everyone's mobile phone and participants to discuss events or arrange their own ad-hoc meet ups. Protesters too realize these advantages to communicate with groups of people anywhere, anytime. Even established organizations such as NPR and the BBC are beginning to discover the advantages of using Twitter, and several of the presidential candidates this season used twitter to communicate with and listen to their supporters (and detractors).

So, what people need to realize is that innovative technologies like Twitter are really what you make them to be. Imaginative people will always be able to use simple tools to accomplish great things.

March 8, 2008

Web, meet phone. Phone, meet web.

nce upon a time, people "got on the internet" by firing up their browser or email client. These days, the line between the internet and other media is blurred beyond recognition. VoIP and other innovations are making the internet truly pervasive in our lives. Have you tried GOOG-411 yet? Amazing--and so incredibly helpful!

Last October, David Pogue delivered a very funny keynote address in which he highlighted several examples of how the internet now mingles with our cell phones and land lines. One of those, PopularityDialer, was shut down by the FCC. Another, GrandCentral, was since acquired by Google who is now providing it free for their Blogger users.

This is great news, because GrandCentral provides amazing functionality! They give you a new single phone number (you choose the area code) that when called can ring any of your existing phones (home, work, mobile, the other mobile, Skype-In number, whatever). It will call any of those phones individually or even simultaneously (wrap your head around that!), allowing you to decide where or if you want to take the call. The service is very customizable too, so you can screen calls, send them to voicemail, listen in, block the caller, or even ring different phones depending on the caller ID. Plus, they give you buttons like the one above to display on your blog or web page to make it easy for people to reach you!

Your GrandCentral number serves as a proxy for all your other numbers, so you can limit the number of people who know your "real" phone numbers. Visual voicemail (made popular by the iPhone) means you can login to the GrandCentral website to see a list of all your calls complete with details, a sound recording of each message, and a link to return the call (which actually calls your phone and connects you automatically). Here's a demo of the visual voicemail so you can see how it works. There's even a mobile version of their site (, so visual voicemail is easy to use from your cell phone's web browser.

Two other handy tools that blur the line between phones and the internet are Jott and Wakerupper. Register your phone with Jott, then call their toll-free number to leave yourself voice memos and reminders which are then sent to your email inbox as audio recordings. Wakerupper takes the opposite approach. Tell it when to call you and enter a text message. Wakerupper waits patiently until the moment you've asked it to call you, then it delivers your message as an audio recording (using text-to-speech which works surprising well). Vote for these and other apps (or search for intriguing Web 2.0 applications) at the Webware 100 Awards of 2008 website.

March 1, 2008

Making music on iPhones and watering plants

iAno is a new piano application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. As you can see in this video, it's incredible! Unfortunately, it requires Jailbreaking (hacking) your iPhone to work, so that might dissuade some users. But if this is a taste of iPhone apps to come, I'm psyched!

Piano not your thing? Check out PocketGuitar.

Music not your thing? Just want to keep your plants alive? Twitter can help. Just rig up a Botanicalls system to your plants and let them send Twitter updates when they need water.

February 24, 2008

Woot! One Deal Per Day

Have you heard about Woot yet? It's a web site that sells just one thing a day (at a great price). New deals are announced a midnight. For example, today Woot is selling an Acer desktop computer for $249.99 (2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB 7200rpm SATA HD, DL DVD burner, Gigabit Ethernet, Flash memory card reader, and Windows Vista Home Basic). That's a pretty good deal!

A great way to keep up with Woot deals is to subscribe to their Twitter and/or RSS feeds. They even have a podcast! To see a list of past Woot deals, look at their Twitter updates page.

February 23, 2008

Yugma Web Conferencing

Dr. Z and I just got done experimenting with Yugma, a new screen-sharing and web conferencing service that's free and web-based. I'm pretty excited about it.

Like many Web 2.0 tools, Yugma requires a login, but registration is free and simple (one only need provide a name and valid email address). With an account, a user can either begin a new screen sharing session or join an existing session from the Yugma home page. Sessions can involve up to 10 users for the free service (up to 500 for a premium account). Inviting someone to join a session is as easy as sending an email (which the web site helps you do, of course), and joining a session only involves logging into the service and entering a 9-digit session ID number. By the way, Yugma works with Macintosh, Windows and Linux PCs, so it's cross-platform. It does, however, require a recent version of Java software be installed.

Once participants have joined a session, they can view each other's screen (not just PowerPoint--anything on the screen), share control of a screen, draw on it, text chat, and even dial a phone number to conference call (it's not a toll-free number, but cell phones and Skype work great for this). If you combine a Skype video chat with a Yugma session, then you've got two-way video and audio as well as screen sharing.

Basically, Yugma--a free solution--provides all of the functionality used in all of the webinars that I've recently attended. It's really quite easy to use and I'm impressed with the clarity of shared screens. This is fantastic for tech support, web conferences, distance education, and many other situations. I think Yugma just edged out Jing as my favorite tech tool of the week.

February 16, 2008

Mobile Web Even Better Than Fixed One?

This week, Google reported that they are seeing 50 times more search requests coming from Apple iPhones than any other mobile internet device. If the trend continues, it's predicted that mobile Internet searches will exceed the number of "fixed" (i.e. desktop) searches within the next several years.

This is strong evidence that people would flock to the mobile web if their device actually made it easy and functional. Expect to see more and more devices emulate the innovative design features of the iPhone. It involves much more than just a larger screen. The user interface must be intuitive and highly functional. For example, the Safari browser on an iPhone (and now iPod Touch) makes it easy and fun to browse almost any web site (come on, Apple, where's the Flash support?).

In fact, the whole touch interface makes me wonder if the tactile experience of using the web on an iPhone might actually be more engaging and interactive than clutching a mouse attached to a desktop computer.

February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Our Lucy is so talented. Look what she sent me today...

Happy Valentine's Day, Everybody!

Jing For Easy Screen Recordings

Wow, I'm totally excited about the Jing project. Jing is a free little application for Macintosh and Windows computers that makes it easy for anyone to capture the action on their screen and share it with others. Registration is free with a valid email address, and they even provide you with free hosting of your screen captures (pictures or movies) on the website. I've used several shareware and commercial apps in the past to make screen recordings, but this is by far the easiest, cheapest, and most elegant solution I've ever used--and it works the same on Mac and Win computers!

Here's a little movie I made to illustrate how to view file name extensions in Windows XP.

February 10, 2008

US Universities Reaching Abroad

I just read an interesting New York Times article entitled U.S. Universities Rush to Set Up Outposts Abroad Apparently, exchange programs, shared degree programs, and research partnerships are no longer innovative. The trend now is universities, even state schools like Michigan State, building branch campuses in foreign countries such as China, Singapore, and India. But the article describes why there is particular interest (and some controversy) about setting up shop in the Middle East.

February 9, 2008

Why do people put up with Windows?

Honestly, why do people put up with all the crap? It amazes me that anyone, especially laypersons, tolerate the headache that is Windows (or Vista, at least). 

This NYT article describes how a self-employed person working out of his home purchased a new Dell laptop for about $1500 and 72 hours later had to send it off to a local repair shop (because Dell customer service couldn't resolve his problem). The repair shop took an entire week to fix it (a software problem, not a hardware problem) and charged him $800--and the guy doesn't feel ripped off! He was quoted as saying, "I didn't begrudge paying the tab."

Is that how little people expect of technology today? It seems that nearly two decades of Windows dominance has actually conditioned people to have very low expectations for technology. Worse, I think it has actually taught most people to be afraid of their technology for fear they might break it!  Is that correctable? Or do we just let today's users be and focus rather on inspiring young learners to maintain their fearlessness?

February 6, 2008

7 Things You Should Know

I just stumbled upon the 7 Things You Should Know series from EDUCAUSE. These look like good, concise overviews of trendy technologies including blogs, Skype, citizen journalism, twitter, Wikipedia, Facebook, RSS, creative commons, and more. Each is available in PDF format for easy printing.  

February 5, 2008

Free How-To-Blog Videos

Atomic Learning has an extensive set of video tutorials for learning how to start a blog (using Blogger), and they are available free for the month of February.

February 2, 2008

Twitter for Teaching

The Chronicle of Higher Education web site has a story about an assistant professor at the University of Texas who began using Twitter with his class and says, "It was the single thing that changed the classroom dynamics more than anything I’ve ever done teaching." The comments posted by readers include some other good ideas and insights too. Dr. Z--You should post a comment about your experience using Twitter in your class last semester.

Innovative technologies like micro-blogging and virtual spaces can be a fun and effective way for students to build a sense of community, collaborate with each other, and reflect upon what they're learning. The academHacK blog recently posted a list of 13 ways to use Twitter in academia. One of my favorites is assigning students to follow a professional. What an innovative way to job shadow someone who you might otherwise never have a chance to meet! Seek out their Twitter feed and follow it to get an idea of what they're doing and thinking.

February 1, 2008

How To Use a Mac

I was about to send this via email when I remembered what a loser I've been with my blog lately. Sorry for not posting lately--just got busy with classes underway again. I'm gonna make an effort to update my blog more often in the coming weeks.

Apple has added a Find Out How section on its web site with video tutorials for the Finder, iLife '08 apps and iWork '08. For example, check out the videos for the new iMovie.

And, for you Lucy fans out there, here's a recent picture of us playing with Photo Booth. 


January 25, 2008

Watching Paint Dry

Perhaps the most exciting video of 2008. The comments are funny too. :-)

January 4, 2008

Celebrity Politics

I'm watching C-SPAN coverage of one of the Iowa republican caucuses last night. Gotta say I'm jealous that republicans get to vote for their first choice of a presidential candidate. The Iowa Democratic Party doesn't let us do that.

I think the Iowa Democratic caucus system is outdated, because its format combined with bad campaign financing rules and celebrity media coverage basically ensures that 2nd tier candidates can't survive the first test in the nation. Republicans don't have that problem. I mean, does anybody think Ron Paul would have actually received 10 percent in Iowa if he had to reach a 15 percent viability threshold in every precinct? Would Dodd or Biden have dropped out of the race already if they had emerged with 10 or 14 percent? I doubt it. Yet, these candidates with much more relevant experience but not enough money to purchase celebrity from the mainstream media walked away with nothing. They were disproportionately disadvantaged by the democratic party's caucus rules in Iowa which requires that at least 15 percent of the caucus goes in every district support a candidate. If not, then their supporters must pick a different candidate, which is exactly what happened in most precincts on Jan 3. Over 10 percent of the caucus goes in my precinct would have supported Joe Biden for president last night, but we were just a few people short of the 15 percent threshold needed for our support of him to be counted. Instead, we had to splinter off to Obama, Clinton or Edwards as a second choice.

Imagine this possible scenario... Biden, Richardson, and Dodd each get 14 percent (14x3 equals 42 percent combined). That leaves just 58 percent of support to split between Obama, Edwards and Clinton (just 19 percent each). Now, instead of the media's favorite candidates walking away with what looks like 30 percent leads, they actually emerge with just single-digit leads. I didn't even figure Kucinich into those figures. Do so and you could have people "winning" the Iowa caucuses by only a few percentage points (or theoretically you could have a statistical tie). Think that would influence supporters and change future fund raising efforts?

Come on, Iowa Democrats. What's the rush to wipe out ALL of our 2nd tier candidates??? That's what happened this year. As the first in the nation test, it should be a test of initial support among registered democrats in the midwest before campaigns move on to other states. The democratic caucuses should not serve as a mechanism to weed out as many people as possible, leaving only those with overwhelming amounts of cash, celebrity and media coverage. Unfortunately, that seems to be the current situation for democrats, and I think it may ultimately cause Iowa to lose it's first in the nation status and the huge economic impact that it has on our state.

Something just seems outdated or wrong with this system in the current climate of media consolidation and out-of-control campaign financing. Perhaps the 15 percent threshold should be lowered to something that could still weed out candidates that aren't even getting 1 or 2 percent of their voters to turn out. Or perhaps we should throw it out and do like republicans. Whatever the case, I think something needs to change. The presidential election in this country is beginning to feel more like American Idol than a serious deliberation of key issues and pragmatic solutions.

January 3, 2008

Preliminary Caucus Results

Waterloo Ward 1 Precinct 1 Results: 162 people (not sure what percentage that represents). Biden, Dodd, nor Richardson are viable. Their support seems to have gone mostly to Hillary (a few went to Obama and Edwards). Senators Obama and Hillary tie in my precinct and a coin toss determines that they will each get 3 delegates to county convention. I don't quite understand the rules/math, but if Hillary had lost the coin toss, then 4 delegates would have gone to Obama and just 2 would to Hillary. Edwards received 2 delegates. Other precincts in the building apparently had mixed results--Obama won at least one, Edwards won another, and at least two ties between Hillary and Obama occurred.

Waiting in the halls

I finally got inside. I waited about 30 minutes outside (and it's cold--like 21 F). Once inside, everyone is trying to find their place in the school for their ward and precinct (there are way too many people here to fit in just the gymnasium or any single room). There seems to be some confusion and misdirection, but considering the huge turnout (about twice as many people as normal) I think things are going relatively well. There are quite a few people yelling out directions, answering questions, and helping some people change their voter registration (you must be a registered democrat to participate). This line is not moving...seems there are way too many people in line just for my ward/precinct to fit in any one room. Wow! This is exciting!

Huge Turnout for Iowa Caucuses!

I arrived at 6:25 and the traffic was heavy. I had to park 7 blocks away and there are at least 100 people waiting in line outside. It's a huge turnout!

Biden Tackles Real Issues Head-On

It's Iowa Caucus day, and Joe Biden appeared early this morning at an Irish pub in Waterloo (after already appearing on 4 morning talk shows).

Senator Biden has my support in the Iowa caucuses tonight. I think there are some strong democrats running for president, but none more qualified or competent to lead our country out of the hole dug by 6 years of dishonest, immoral, fear-mongering republican control and into a future where America is again respected and admired throughout the world.

Senator Biden understands (as President Clinton described last night) that the U.S. can't solve most problems alone, yet there exists great opportunities to regain our status as a world leader on major issues. I believe Biden has an in-depth understanding of important issues, highly relevant experiences, and a strong track record of wisdom and judgment that will make him a great president ready to hit the ground running. I've heard him speak several times on many issues, and I am convinced that he is the best candidate for positive change based on successful experience (not just generic change based on vague experience).

Joe Biden certainly appears to be an underdog, but I know he has some strong pockets of support in Iowa. I hope Iowa caucus goers will surprise us tonight with a strong showing for Joe Biden!

January 2, 2008

We Miss Bill

Magda and I are watching President Clinton campaign for Hillary in Waterloo tonight. He's a rock star. The guy just connects with his audience! I had already heard most of this speech on C-SPAN, yet his delivery is so good that I'm captivated.

Tomorrow is caucus day. I hope everyone will get out to participate. It's an exciting election! Find your caucus site: Democrats click here, Republicans figure it out for yourself. No, seriously... click here. Alright, just kidding-- here is the republican site.

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Szczesliwego Nowego Roku! We celebrated twice this year… first, via Skype with Magda's father in Poland this afternoon (7 hours difference), then again here at home. Lucy went to bed at 8pm, but we snuck up to her room to take a picture of her first moments in 2008. She seems happy. :-)