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Enchanting David Bowie: Space/Time/Body/Memory

Enchanting David Bowie: Space/Time/Body/Memory

Exceptionally happy with the $13Au price tag for Enchanting David Bowie: Space/Time/Body/Memory as there is nothing worse than ridiculous prices for academics books.

I’m not talking sales here, I’m talking access, and for that price I’m going to buy a copy for my Kindle. My reading and research is almost entirely confined to the digital and my bookcases increasingly giving way to Lego as I replace paper.

Initially my embrace of the Kindle app on the iPad mini was a response to neck pain and difficulties with long hours of reading, but the word search, note taking, bookmarking, and audio sync features make me happy and my reading more productive, which is very important give the limited time available for reading.  

Paper is still magnetic in its attraction and my office is still littered with the stuff – books on shelves, printed articles when my eyes need a different surface to move over – it is an all expression of the legacy techniques of the institution.  The recent shift to PDF is a simply digital arrangement of the same forces involved, at least most of the mess is restricted to digital realm of the email inbox.

seeing through Glass

It would take a lot for me to shift from my iPad mini to an Android tablet but Google Glass would do it. I’m scaling up the use of G+ in my teaching this year after a successful trial of the Hangout feature and live online tutorials via my laptop in the tutorial rooms in 2012. I’ve lived with my (various versions) of iPad since launch and it’s been a marvellous extension to my brain, making my life that much easier just by being able to walk away from the PC and the laptop to research, write, communicate and play anywhere. Google Glass would mean getting rid of the laptop in the classroom and to bring the students at work, travelling or  just sitting at home in their pajamas a better ‘live’ online tutorial experience. Give me fives sets of these and the kind of research I could accomplish with an invested student cohort would be really amazing.

don’t make me say it

My ‘to do’ lists are organic things, spread across multiple post-it notes, both digital and physical (despite the attachment to my iPad mini, I’m still very analogue in some ways). They have a habit of growing dramatically during the day and usually becoming sprawling trains of thought and yellow paper. It’s a messy way to live and work, but it’s a good sign when my desk is littered with colonies of post-it notes, stacks of readings and highlighters, messes of books and loose associations of documents; a clear indication of productivity. It’s a very bad sign when my desk is clean and tidy.

you know you want to

First watch this fantastic Battlestar Gallactica fan vid.

Now you know how I feel about Ashes to Ashes.

In a world where watching a new Doctor Who episode is a rare and wonderful thing in itself, it is nice to stumble across a series that captivates and seizes your attention so fully that it invades almost every other thought in your day.

I was very impressed with the first series Life on Mars from creators Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan and Ashley Pharoah and equally unimpressed by the dreadful US remake of the first series by David E. Kelly that was mercifully canned. It was John Simm who pulled me in, but I stayed for Philip Glenister and the music.

I’d heard rumours of a new series, but promptly got on with life until I found Ashes to Ashes via the ABC’s ivew app this week while searching for an episode of Pepper Pig for X.

I’d love nothing better than to ‘occupy’ the couch for a week and watch both series back to back and get through the two seasons of Ashes to Ashes I’ve yet to watch. Still, thanks to Grooveshark, I can go back to the 80s and live these songs that were the wallpaper of my childhood, and imagine the stories I’d write if fan fiction was something I could get paid to do.


a problem solved?

After my complaints earlier in the week about WordPress, I took a look around the app store for a better blogging tool and found Blogger+. So far so good, it let me add both wordpress and blogger blogs effortlessly. No bugs or issues and it also lets me save drafts and mange images nicely. It definitely helped my blogging this week. Would be nice if the app had YouTube, Flickr and Twitter integration, but I don’t understand why these aren’t integrated more directly into the iOs – although I haven’t downloaded the latest iOS version yet so I should go do that. Blogging from the tablet device is much more fun than from the desktop, it feels a lot less like work.

How the App Store works

I’m currently engaged in some background research on Australian app developers, and I figured I need to look into how the Apple app store App Store actually works (Apple has previously attempted to claim ownership over the term ‘App Store’). As a digital distribution platform, the App Store is entirely closed (as opposed to the Android App Store which is nominally ‘open’) allowing Apple to tightly control the service and take a 30 per cent share in each app sold (subscriptions services sold directly from a website for an app can now avoid this cut).
The App Store business model has been phenomenally successful. Developers have to pay US$99 per year to gain access to the development software, which are then submitted to Apple for approval. More than 500,000 apps have been approved, with 14,000,000,000+ downloads generating an estimated $3.6 billion (an unverified but impressive figure).
David Smith has a excellent timeline of the development of the iPhone, App store and iOS (Apples operating system for mobile devices) here, and he covers many of the current concerns with Apple’s approach, particularly the way Apple can refuse applications and incorporate those features into its own iOS updates (Apple employs an NDA to restrict information about the terms of rejection from the store).
One of the major issues for developers is the arbitrary approval process for Apps, and the way that Apple
can ban apps from the store and then appropriate (steal) those innovations within new versions of the iOS (see also this blog on those apps to be affected by the new iOS5 update). Apple has its share of defenders and the ‘jailbreaking’ option provides a way for user to escape the confines of the Apple oligopoly, but jailbreaking is not as attractive an option as it was before Apple launched the software development kit (SDK) for developers allowing innovation to make it way into the app store.
Being ‘featured’ in the App Store is highly advantageous to developers as it increases sales of their apps, and can happen in a number of ways. The ‘New & Noteworthy’ section seems only nominal different to the Staff Favourite section, and both, I presume, are arbitrarily decided on by a bunch of Apple boffins. I quite like the idea of the Staff Favourites section, I imagine various compulsory polls and surveys that Apple employees have to take each week to decide which apps will be featured, or perhaps some sort of in-built surveillance that tallies the aggregate use of apps by Apple staff just for this section.
The ‘Genius’ featured page is even more obscure, it seems to offer a list of recommendations based purely on apps that I have installed rather than the ones I actually use on a regular basis. The Top Chart feature page seems very straight forward, and has the added bonus of helping those apps doing well, do better, in terms of sale. I’ve jut noticed the new ‘purchased’ tab, which I swear wasn’t there yesterday, that has a listed of all the apps I’ve previously installed (not just the ones I have paid for but the free apps as well).
Still no real insight into the process on becoming featured, other than simply gaining some kind of attention of those in charge of the App Store at apple, via sales or positive reviews, so more digging needs to happen there.

Made in Australia: a brief exploration of Australian iPad apps (June, 2011)

The Apple Store (accessed via the iPad) ‘Featured’ tab now includes a ‘Made in Australia’ section subtitled ‘Great Apps for Australians’. What counts as made in Australia, or an Australian app, let alone Apps for Australians isn’t clearly defined, and something I plan to unpack further in the future. Similarly, there is no information as to what it takes to make this secion and there seems to be plenty of apps made by Australian developers that are missing. An earlier report mentions that 70 apps are featured in this section, but only 45 are currently listed (perhaps the higher figure refers to both iPhone and Ipad apps?).

Currently the ‘Made in Australia’ section includes 45 apps and the page can be sorted via Name, Release Date and “Featured” status (note-to-self find out how apps become ‘featured’). Sorted by name, 12 apps are displayed per page.

starting with the A’s…

ABC Foodi
Category: Lifestyle
Seller: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
This app includes 120 recipes from chefs on various ABC TV shows. The app itself is very well produce, and the recipes include nice elements like the ‘cook mode’, inbuilt timers and a shopping list function. There are no details of who actually worked on the app, there is no credit section, but digging around a little it seems that all ABC apps are developed ‘in house’ under the auspices of ‘ABC Innovation’ a branch of the ABC formed in 2007 that includes the ABC’s entire online presence, the ‘BlueBird ARG’ and the Gallipoli: The First Day Web application which seems to be a co-production. According to The Australian, the ABC Innovation producer is Caroline Kinny-Lewis, and there appears to be a presence as Southbank, Victoria, so I plan to check out that further.

There are currently 85 user ratings, which doesn’t give a good indication of the total number of downloads or active users.
The user reviews are very positive.
67 users rank the app 5/5 stars
8 rank 4/5 stars
1 rank 3/5 stars
2 rank 2/stars
9 rank 1/5 stars

ABC iview
Category: Entertainment
Seller: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The ABC, in my purest form of opinion is the only network in Australia that offer any real innovation when it comes to contemporary television, especially in regards to distribution. It has advantages as the national broadcaster, funded by the commonwealth, which leaves the network largely independent from advertising, but it offers a digital service with iView that makes all the other networks look positively last century. iView is great on the web but even better on the iPad. The video streaming is smooth and the sound and picture quality is excellent. The navigation is easy to use and Miss 4 can find her programs with ease. Useful features like a watch list are handy, and there is a ubiquitous share function for email and posting notifications to Facebook and Twitter. I don’t have the 3G version of the iPad but I’ve heard the 3G network is terribly for streaming video and I imagine quite expensive (I will have to research this further).

There are currently 141 user ratings, a few reviews reveal some interesting issues, a couple mention that 3G doesn’t work, which is a major issue for users in rural areas where the only connection available is 3g. The video can’t be viewed out side of Australia due to copyright restriction and some of the feature cause the app to crash on occasion.
91 users rank the app 5/5 stars
12 rank 4/5 stars
9 rank 3/5 stars
12 rank 2/5 stars
17 rank 1/5 stars

43 more apps to go…

iPad as content producer #2

The website Mashable posted an interesting article about the number of users uploading images created on the iPad2 back in May. Given the one million plus iPad2 sold during its launch weekend in March, it was surprising to see only 12,811 photos take on the Ipad2 had been uploaded to The site registered only 23 active daily users.

That figure has risen to 30,652 uploaded images, as of today (June 16, 2011) with more than double the active daily users, now 47, but the iPad 2 still registers as the least used of all the Apple devices with a digital still camera attached.

The current sales prediction for the iPad2 is ten million plus, so it will be interesting to see if these figures and the proportion of use changes over the next few months. Current leaked figures suggest that iPad2 sales are already around 8.5 million.  I’ll be paying close attention to news about version 3 of the iPad to see if the next generation has better a camera capacity.


iPad2 as content producer #1

Early critics of the Apple iPad suggest the device was intended purely as a media content receiver, and the limited range of (buggy) content producing apps at launch in April 2010, seemed to vindicate this position. Then the flood of apps came and the apps for creating music, drawing and digital manipulation of images (read ‘photoshopping), better features for text editing, layout and presentation in the Pages and Keynote apps, dramatically expanded the potential for media creation. Only the lack of a good keyboard (the Apple devices don’t stand up to prolonged use and everyday wear) and the limited accuracy of the finger via the haptic interface, held the original version back.

Version 2 of the iPad is even more of a content producer than the original. I haven’t experimented with it yet, but the Garageband app has real potential. Some great examples of the music creation tool on YouTube here and here. The iPad2 also has forward and rear facing cameras to capture still images and video. As mention earlier the video is great for portable Skype calls, but I’m yet to try out the Facetime app for apple devices.

The still images aren’t great, but I’m yet to see images from a portable device, like a mobile phone, that are. The stills captured by the iPad2 are very similar in quality to the iPod touch, and lower in quality than the iPhone 4. The forward facing camera is ‘VGA’ resolution, 640×480 pixels, which is fine for video conferencing but not great for portrait photos even through the iPad2 comes with a portrait-making application. The rear camera has still camera has a 5x digital zoom, but in any low light conditions the images are extremely blurry.

The video recordings captures 720p (HD) at up to 30 frames per second (FPS) with audio, and it is this feature in conjunction with the iMovie app that really makes the iPad2 viable as a content producer for non-professional purposes. This is an interesting side-by-side comparison of the iphone 4 and ipad2 video . I actually disagree with the conclusions of the video, although the FPS capture rate and colour saturation seems a little better on the iPhone4 the crispness of the detail on edges and depth of field on the wider capture of the iPad seem a lot better to my eyes but I’m not an expert on these types of comparison.

As a non-professional grade media content producer I think the iPad is a perfect tool for educational uses. I’ll talk more about the role of the iPad as replacement for textbooks later, but as a tool for new media driven practice it is unparalleled. I’ve already experimented with using Web2.0 applications in teaching and learning, and I firmly believe blogs, wikis, social network spaces, podcasts and user-generated video are the way forward, especially in Higher Education, replacing older forms of presentation and essay style assessment practices. I imagine entire cohorts as media-producers, each equipped with a mobile device like the iPad playing a key role in research and assessment practices for students in the near future, and each generation of these devices will help edge us one step closer.

My (current) relationship with Apple

The first iPad was my reintroduction to the world of Apple. I’d enjoyed doing my high school homework on the boxy little Apple Macintosh Classic, but the lack of games made the Intel 486 a much more appealing machine. Although I spent summers working to afford memory upgrades, the ability to take control of both hardware and software – to tinker – made all the difference. A brief experience working with the lethargic and endlessly freezing iMac G3 reaffirmed my disinterest in the Apple platform.

The iPhone changed everything, not as a phone, but as a mobile media device. I don’t use the very basic mobile I have very much, so the iPhone was not something I was interested in, but the iPad offered a way of abandoning my beautiful, but heavy, Dell laptop. I picked up the last WiFi iPad in Wollongong on the day of the launch, a little impulsively perhaps but after just a few minutes of experimenting with the JB store’s display model I was hooked. Then after just a few days of using the iPad a friend, moving overseas, offered to sell me a second hand iMac and that is when we become a three operating system household. I’ve since stop using Linux (I’ve plans to return to Ubuntu at some stage), but the Mac and the PC happily sit side by side on two desks and I now use the Mac exclusively for work, with the PC functioning as my primary games system. Thanks to Google docs and Dropbox I don’t use any Microsoft software and rely on Pages to handle documents created in Word.

The Apple keyboard, like the brand new Apple keyboard on the iMac, I purchased with the first iPad didn’t last the year. I’ve used the Mac keyboard a lot, and it is great for prolonged typing, but as with the desktop Mac keyboard they just don’t stand up to normal wear and tear let alone any kind of punishment that the kids can dish out. Typing on the iPad directly is fine for meetings, browsing and quick email replies, but for any serious writing and document editing a separate keyboard is required (I’ve only just discovered the undo/redo functions on the screen keyboard, but I rely heavily on keyboard shortcuts).

The app called Notebooks has been excellent for taking and organising notes and general writing on specific topics. I quite like the minimalist approach of iWriter, and I’ve been impressed with the Pages app for creating long, picture heavy documents, although I usually export the document to the desktop version of Pages to finalise it. The iPad has thoroughly infected my everyday technology and media use, and while I actively resist unnecessary upgrading, I’ve been trying to get hold of the iPad2 since it became available in Australia. Knowing that L would be instantly hooked the moment she started exploring iBooks, the iPad2 is less of an upgrade, and more of a sidegrade.

Both H and X love using the iPad, and X (not quite 2) is amazing in his command of the device, and it’s really brought on his enjoyment of puzzles, colouring and drawing, and games. This has of course made things difficult, when the iPad was just ‘mine’ the kids were less objectionable giving it back, but now there are two and X can say ‘turn’ quite clearly it has caused more of the ‘screen’ issues that access to the TV and the desktop computers cause.

I walked into the insanely busy Applestore in the Chadstone Mall last weekend, and surprised when the Blue Shirt acknowledged the presence of WiFi models in stock. I’d narrowly missed out on the 32gb version, but was more than happy to take the 64gb on offer and after a week of use I’m very impressed with the new version. I’d nearly filled the16gb iPad with apps, emails, PDFs and Doctor Seuss books so the 64gb version provided some welcome head room.

A few people have scoffed when I’ve mentioned how much lighter the new version is (at just over 600 grams) but it makes a big difference to extended use, especially when reading and marking up PDFs. I have a pretty hefty rubber case on the original iPad that helps insulate it against rougher treatment, and I’m planning on an integrated keyboard/case option but I went for the cheaper of the two new covers in the mean time.

The new ‘Smart’ covers are great for regular use, the instant-on feature and the magnetic side attachment aren’t just neat, they increase the functionality remarkably. The folding cover becomes a desk stand and useful handle for the device. The magnetic cover attaches to the side bevel and it is this part of the new hardware that is the least impressive design element of the new device.

The bevel makes the side volume and top off switch harder to access and use, but the new speaker grill on the base seems to increase the volume slightly. The screen is the same resolution as the original, but the new dual processor adds a snappiness to the screen interaction and faster load times for the apps. I don’t play many games on the iPad, but I have been checking out the games created by Australian developers and there is definitely more accuracy and responsiveness in the new version.

I was concerned that a new iPad would require re-purchasing all the apps, but after a backup and renaming, I was able to add the apps I wanted to the new version from iTunes library. I have to admit I was pretty surprised at this, having lost video and music purchases from iTunes before on the PC, I was very impressed at the ability to share apps between iPad devices.

Less impressive is the new still camera. Mashable  reports that Flickr has an average daily user count of 23 people uploading images from the iPad2, compared to the 4,402 daily active iPhone 4 users. Quality isn’t great, but then the size and shape of the iPad isn’t really conducive to on-the-go photography anyway. I have seen some excellent use of Callibre in conjunction with video and image capture on the iPhone shared as an interactive document to a classroom full of iPads, which I’m sure will lead to some excellent educational applications, but a full implementation of this is going to be heldback by the low resolution capacity of the iPad camera, which is the same as the iPod touch.

The video camera works well for Skype and Facetime, although after about 20 minutes into a Skype call the video and audio of the connection de-synched. The iMovie app is an non-standard extra, downloaded via the app store, much like Pages and Keynote. I’m looking forward to experimenting with iMovie app and will update the review in the near future.

I’m still not an Apple ‘fanboi’, there is a lot wrong with the Apple monopoly of the app marketplace, but there is no denying the superiority of the iOS over Android (L has an HTC desire mobile, which while a nice phone has been nothing but trouble in terms of the OS). I hope the upcoming release of the Android-based tablets and other tablet devices will continue to put pressure on Apple to innovate and continue to improve on the iPad, but I’m not expecting any of them to come close to being as good as the iPad is all round.