New Flickr

screen shot of new flickr pageI really like my new Flickr page.

This just appeared one day last week, with little warning. It’s taken me a short while to find the things I use on Flickr, but overall I’m well pleased.

I’ve thought for a while that it would be nice to see my photo-stream full page, rather than in small windows. Now, I can scroll through the year quite easily.

E.g. The ‘Gavin’ Coke and picture of Sharon remind me of the weekend we had summer earlier this month. The picture of Kings Cross remind me of what will probably be my last work-trip to London and the various jig-saw pictures remind me of a new hobby.

Right back to Christmas and the inevitable Brussels Sprouts.

Sets and Favorites (sic) are now laid out in a more eye-friendly way too – I’d forgotten all about this picture of me and Danny Atwere; I just found it in my Favourites.

So, whilst I can’t always appreciate updates and ‘improvements’ just for the sake of changing something, I can and do appreciate this major change. Well done Yahoo!

So – Facebook; can you make updates and ‘improvements’ that work as well as Flickr’s?  

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Built-in obsolescence

Two PrintersFollowing the sudden failure and consequent death* of my Epson Printer yesterday, I am now the owner of a fourth ‘new’ printer since my self-employment began in 2005. There was a fifth, which I carried forward into self-employment, but that was retired fairly early on due to its age. It was put out to grass with Sharon until she passed it on to Betony, who (as a teenager) found it useful the odd time she needed to print a page and my shiny new laser printer wasn’t available.

So the average age of a printer is what? Two years? Really – just two years, IS THAT ALL?

The HP Laser printer was a huge disappointment. I can’t remember exactly how it died, or why, but it hadn’t fulfilled my expectations anyway – being unreliable and of patchy quality. It was binned within two years, I do remember that.  We then had an HP all-in-one inkjet which, to be fair, produced a better output than the laser jobbie. That one must have lasted over two years – which was still a disappointment, because the only reason IT DIED was that some chip somewhere inside it said that it should die. We simply couldn’t make it work well once it had started playing up.

So then, thinking that HP were rubbish, we moved to Epson and bought an Epson Stylus Photo PX720WD. This came with all singing and dancing ‘stuff’ we didn’t really need but it was a 6-ink printer with a bloody good write-up. Its print, scan and copy quality were second to now. Also, as we had learned to do with the HP Inkjet, we bought a non-proprietary ‘ink-system’ to negate the exorbitant cost of proprietary inks. This worked well. Every now and again, we had to tell the printer that we had bought new ink (there’s a chip in the  proprietary ink cartridge that tells it when to shout ’empty’, even if it isn’t) and everything was hunky dory.

Yesterday then, was a surprise when it said that its ink pads were at the end of their life and we should take it to Epson for replacement. Research told me that I wasn’t the only person this had happened to. E.g.

My Epson PX800FW all-in-one has started displaying a strange message about the ink pads (not carts note) coming to the end of their service life and to contact Epson support. A quick look on the Epson site basically states that you can get them repaired but they are prohibitively expensive usually, but not to worry because they only tend to go after years of use and/or very heavy use and so typically the printer will be replaced for other reasons before it comes an issue. [from: http://forums.bit-tech.net/showthread.php?t=184732]

Most forums recommended a download that would cure the problem, some sites offer help at a cost but none seemed to help me with the fact that I wanted to print NOW. I did try the download, but the printer simply refused to talk to either the Mac or the PC – it simply said ‘take me to me maker’.

So we’ve bought another printer today. We tried the Espon site and looked at all the spec, then checked out the various retailers (Argos, PC World, Curry’s, Tesco etc.) hoping we could pick one up quickly but despite them showing on their sites – once we got to the ‘buy’ area it said ‘out of stock’ – tough titty basically! How these sites survive, I’ve no idea. I understand that the shops might not hold stock, but surely they can move pieces from the Central Distribution Depot to the shop within 48 hours.

Amazon did the job in less than 18. Around 4.00pm yesterday we paid £7 for delivery before 1:00pm the next day (today). it was with us by 8.40am! Brilliant.

We’ve gone for a cheap unit this time. 4 inks (system ordered and on its way), gravity feed etc. but if it’s not going to last two years due to built-in obsolescence, we might as well pay £60 than £200.

* Death might be too harsh a word – I intend to try and get it repaired, after all i only need to override the chip that Epson put in. I must remember that they SOLD it to me, they didn’t rent it to me, so i have no obligation to go to them for repair.

Arbeitslos

Arbeitslos 2013I have found this post quite difficult to compose. The subject matter is completely alien to me and I had to think long and hard about whether or not I should write it. I am doing so in the hope that it’s personally cathartic, as I don’t really expect any of the circumstances to change any time soon.

For the first time in over thirty years I find myself without work.

The last time this happened was in 1982 when, following several hard years of self employment a previous recession forced me to close the business I was then running. At that time we sold our delightful semi-detached home and moved into a fish and chip shop. This was good accommodation, but living ‘over’ the shop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A fish and chip business wasn’t the most lucrative to have at that time either as all of the local businesses and mills were also closing – but we were able to keep a roof over our heads and to feed the kids.

It was following this experience that I moved into Education, starting as a part-time chef-lecturer at Dewsbury College.

I became self-employed once again; seventeen years later in 2005, when my ‘e-Learning Manager’ post at Dewsbury was made redundant. Since then, until the middle of 2011 it was ‘rock and roll’ – I was as busy as anyone else in this business and, I like to think, just as equally respected. Since the summer of 2011, things have slackened off remarkably. Without work given to me by the redoubtable Lilian Soon (at Leeds College of Music) and by LSIS (directly and via various routes), I would have struggled much earlier. I have had other work – not to mention that provided by TechDis (for whom I do still have some residual bits of work) and one of the RSCs, but now that LSIS are no more and the JISC are also tightening their belts, there is nothing on the horizon at all.

I know that I’m not the only one as I’ve seen several status updates on Facebook and on Twitter from respected, often eminent e-Learning gurus – saying the same thing: where is the work?

It would seem to me that at this time; when colleges are being forced to re-think the way they operate due to massively reduced funding streams, that the creative, thoughtful and effective use of e-Learning would be most necessary – but there’s no evidence of that.

I spent a full week in a college last month delivering ‘basic Moodle training’ (17 x 90-minute sessions) to as many of the staff (teaching and non-teaching) as could make those sessions – almost the entire staff body. And, that’s a good thing – but there is no cross-college, management inspired plan to back up the basics with anything more advanced. Yet, with just a little more guidance, some input on ‘other tools’ and a modicum of ‘this-is-how-to-make-online-work’ – next year’s intake mightn’t be faced with meaningless lists of files – or the scroll of video death*.

Cartoon image, courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearmancartoons/Yet another college will soon move into a new build. As far as I’m aware, there will be no (or much reduced) physical file storage there and everyone will ‘hot-desk’. But I’m not aware of any training being delivered to help staff to cope with the necessity of storing online or of the benefits and challenges that this will bring.

After talking with other ‘e’ friends, some of whom are in a similar situation to me, I feel that much of the ‘e’ progress we have seen (and been party to) over the last 10-12 years is in danger of being lost – or at the very least stalled. Which is a real shame, because learners still need to be well taught – but nowadays in less time and with less face to face guidance.

So, although I’m fairly sanguine about my personal future – I do feel for those ‘e’ colleagues who have families to support. I just need to sell my house (it’s been for sale on and off for over two years already) and any immediate pressure will be off – but the reason for it not selling is much the same as the reasons for reduced funding across Education – and I don’t want to fall out with anyone by going into THAT!

🙂

*Now that I’ve shown teachers how to ‘embed’ videos in ‘labels’ (also in ‘Book’ – but that’s a step extra) I expect there to be a repeat of the days when teachers first saw PowerPoint and immediately adopted that – for everything, for ever! Leading to the original ‘death by …’.

Credits:

Cartoon image, courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearmancartoons/
Main image original courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/evaekeblad/ [links to original]