not bad

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…