Yos A mite

Yosemite Sam

Yesterday, I girded my loins and updated the operating system on my Mac Book Pro.

My Mac is a late 2008 model; when I bought it in May 2009 I hadn’t been informed of that fact, nor of the fact that a new model would be released that summer. It came with Leopard (OSX 10.5) installed, but I updated this to Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6) fairly soon afterwards as I was, at the time, surrounded by folks who could support me should things go awry. It was a smooth process and until yesterday I ran with Snow Leopard successfully and without issues. Also see: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2476004/mac-os-x/why-mac-users-still-use-os-x-snow-leopard.html

Over the last five years I’d avoided the transition to Lion, then to Mountain Lion and then to Mavericks, fearing:
A) my own competence in undertaking the task and
B)more importantly – that my Mac was too old to take a bigger, fatter OS. Both fears have been (apparently) unfounded and I am now proudly running Yosemite* (OSX 10.10). Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_OS_X

My brother in law had been using Mavericks on his reconditioned MacBook Air and told me that it was quicker and didn’t drain the battery as much than whatever his machine had when he took it over. Then, last weekend I noticed that he had upgraded again to Yosemite. At the time, I was getting messages from Gmail telling me that my version of Safari was out-of-date and no longer supported, all of which was making me think that my machine was ‘getting on a bit’. So – as I had to stay in the house yesterday – I set too!

First of all (Yorkshiremen note …) the upgrade is free – costs not a jot. The download is about 5.5gig – so it takes some time. I think mine took about an hour to download. But I was working on the machine at the same time so I’m not really sure. Then the time came to INSTALL. I drew my breath and clicked ok.

The installation took quite a while. Once again, I didn’t check the time too closely but I went out for lunch and when I got back it was done all bar the fiddly bits – which are what really took the time.

First of all Safari wanted some TLC. I think because I don’t use Safari as my main browser (I use Firefox and Chrome too)  it was sulking a bit and I had to work out what it was it wanted, before telling it how much I loved it but – no I didn’t want it as my main browser. It took all my bookmarks from Firefox without really asking if I wanted to do that and I had clicked ‘ok’ before I really knew what it was up to. As a result of that I still have a lot of work to do with Safari to make it feel like mine again.

Firefox then threw a sulk and I eventually had to update that too. Which is a good thing. I now feel more in control of my main browser. It settled into Yosemite easily and without changing too much of my interface. I’ve yet to tackle Chrome.

Anything else that needed updating then shouted at me and were easily dealt with, except a couple of Apple things, (3) iLife (products) and iPhoto. The iLife stuff: Keynote, Numbers and Pages are still shouting at me to be updated but when I try they say they are not registered to me (which is untrue – I paid good money for iLife 2009!) – so that’s an ongoing saga. iPhoto on the other hand is simply too old for Yosemite, so i had to go to the App Store and download a new version. Because I have almost 11,000 photos on iPhoto the process of new-version taking over old-version DID take a while, almost two hours. However, when it came out the other side, it did look cleaner, faster and more adjustable.

There are still lots of Yosemite tricks and facilities I have to explore, but I’m happy to have got this far. It promises ‘stuff’ that I can only imagine as I have not yet got a iOS8 phone but I’ll play with the iPad later and see how that goes.

A message fro all this?  Don’t be afraid. Just do it 🙂

*That’s Yos em it ee b.t.w. like the park, not Yos A Mite 🙂

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CC – All

I have been using email for about a thousand years now, or so it seems.  My early days started in the late nineties with Pegasus Mail at work and goodness knows what at home with Dircon and the like.

It wasn’t rocket science, although at time it felt like it because any problems you usually had to sort out for yourself – we were all learning together. I soon put Pegasus to work (in college) by advertising our student restaurant and shop produce via ‘All Staff‘. And it worked – until some folks got fed up of the emails (“I don’t want them in my inbox – they clutter it up”) and I was asked to put the updates on the newly developed Intranet.

The interest in what was on the restaurant menu and what we had for sale in the shop dropped off immediately because the marketing service had changed from ‘here-it-is‘ to ‘go-and-fetch‘ – very few actually went onto the Intranet and fetched.

So to appease the few who didn’t know where the ‘delete mail‘ button was our ad hoc lunch and shop trade dropped off.

And so it goes on – about fifteen years later, people do still not know where the ‘delete mail‘ button is.

I received an email this week that someone, (someone with no idea how to use BCC or to create an email ‘list’ or ‘group’) sent to everyone they thought was concerned with a particular organisation. The email was sent to about three people (named recipients) and ‘copied’ (cc) to about fifty others (it may have been more, I didn’t count them all – but they scrolled and scrolled). I immediately saw the email for what it was: the named recipients would either ‘reply-all‘ and I’d know the outcome anyway or, (preferably) the named recipients would reply ONLY to the original author – in which case it wouldn’t matter. So I deleted it.

Others though, either not thinking or (more likely) with no clear idea of how email works clicked their ‘reply all‘ button to say “I so agree with you”, or “please remove me from this list”. So not happy with receiving unwanted emails themselves they decided to add to everyone else’s unwanted emails by clicking the ‘reply all‘ button.

Don’t do that!! Simply delete the message.

Once such an email has been sent it is impossible to stop it bouncing around the ether. Please use a group list or if necessary bcc.

Also working on: http://99euroyears.wordpress.com/

Book Creator

picture of dilapidated phone box

Phone box, a dying icon

Today I’ve been playing with Book Creator on my iPad.

The App; designed for iPad, can be accessed on the iTunes store at http://bit.ly/10JrgV0

“The simple way to create your own beautiful iBooks, right on the iPad.
Read them in iBooks, send them to your friends, or submit them to the iBookstore. Ideal for children’s picture books, photo books, art books, cook books, manuals, textbooks, and the list goes on. ” [From page]

I became aware of the App during an iPad Academy session I attended last week.  This was presented by Lilian Soon at the University of York, to PGCE students.

I am one of the iPad Academy’s newest registered trainers (working across West Yorkshire, and East Lancashire) and had attended to get a feel for what is expected of a session. We explored a number of Apps (which I may deal with in a later post), but Book Creator was shown to me by someone else attending the session. I immediately saw the potential for this £2.99 App.

So today, after trying it out a few times – simply to get a feel for the menus etc, I set to, to make a book and to see how versatile the App was.  Book Creator allows you to assemble a variety of media and to present these in e-Book (.ePub) format for consumption on the iPad.

First of all Text:

Text is inserted in blocks, in much the same way you might insert text-blocks in older desktop publishing (DTP) software.  A sliding bar allows you to control the font size and a drop-down menu allows choice of font. The usual [B], [I] and [U] are available, along with [colour] and the chance to alter the background colour of the text-block. You are unable to edit less than the full text-block.

book-creatorNext Visual Media:

Inserting images and videos from your iPad library is swift and easy, as is the option to use the iPad camera to record a new image of video clip. Once inserted, the media can be re-shaped and sized with ease.

Next Sound:

You have two options for sound: record it there and then (useful for reading back what you’ve typed into the text-blocks, for accessibility purposes) or, apply a soundtrack to either the first page or all pages. Beware that this can be irritating if you do record an audio version of the text-blocks.

I’d hoped it could be fully accessed via any ePub reader, but it only seems to work in iBooks on the iPad. I’ve tried using an ePub reader on my MacBook Pro and it does show the pictures and allow me to read the text – but the video didn’t appear. So provided you can distribute the book efficiently, it should be a good way of consuming own-made books on the iPad.

Try mine if you like: http://bit.ly/10RIL23

You will probably need to download the file directly onto your iPad, unless you know how to get an ePub file onto it from your computer (another post, another day perhaps: but for now – http://www.apple.com/itunes/inside-itunes/2010/04/using-itunes-to-add-epub-files-to-ibooks.html).

My effort isn’t not much and it is messy, but it shows what can easily be done using this powerful App. Perhaps you could get your learners to CREATE something on their iPads?

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?  

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.

Connectivity

 

picture of people using the mobile phones on york railway station.

Eyes down. (That’s Ron Mitchell centre-stage 😉

James Clay’s recent e-Learning Stuff blog post – http://elearningstuff.net/2013/04/15/so-what-if-i-am-not-connected/ prompted the following reply from me on Facebook:

I so agree James. It’s almost like 10 years ago when we couldn’t assume that learners (or their teachers) could (or would) be able to get on the net.

Now that everyone pretty much ‘can’ get on the net and mainly ‘do’ get on the net for social purposes – we similarly assume that they are savvy enough to deal with lack of or no connectivity, JAVA updates, Adobe updates and the like, all of which take up time – always at the most inconvenient, obtrusive “ffs leave me alone” time.

I leave train journeys for ‘Office’ stuff and reading now – I never try because it’s just so depressing.

He’d talked about how unreliable getting on line was during the times he had to take part in online courses. Whilst I am not taking part in such a course, I have exactly the same frustration – as I’m sure do most travelling (peripatetic) workers who rely on the internet for collaboration and communication.

I am working away all of this week, in Maidenhead.  Whilst I’m working in the college I’m so full on that I am unable to access my emails, reply to FB or Twitter ‘stuff’, blog or – anything that would, if sat in my office at home, effect an immediate response. So that sort of thing has to wait until I’m sat in my Travelodge bedroom, walking the streets or sat in a pub.

In my Travelodge bedroom (which may itself evoke another blog post) I have a wide variety of ‘pay for me‘ services available and I’m not paying for those – they are just as unreliable as the train WiFis. However, I do have a ‘3’ pay as you go MiFi which rarely lets me down when it has good reception and I’m not in a moving vehicle. I’m using MiFi as I type this. So – pretty good service, but I have to wait until I’m static, have switched it on and I’m connected.

Walking the streets – the MiFi would probably be ok, but why would I carry my laptop or iPad around with my, typing in the streets? I could use my iPhone, but the clue is in the name: when you’re walking, it’s really only any good as a phone. When you’re sat still and doing anything other than texting or reading emails on the iPhone 3GS, it’s only any good as a phone (and therefore discarded from this tirade).

So, the pub (and many other out-and-about establishments) provide access to The Cloud or similar services (e.g. BT Total Broadband). And, I use them. But. They are so erratic. I tried to upload a photo to Instagram the other night but it just wouldn’t go. I’ve no idea why, I had good connection to The Cloud  but – nothing. It’s not the first time I’ve had trouble with Instagram.

The same occurred when I wanted to share a passage I’d read in the Kindle Book I was reading – “sorry, something has gone wrong” – Amazon, the cheeky sods even sent me emails each time I tried, to say “sorry, something went wrong, please try again” (I can’t. I’ve finished the damn book now grrrr).

So, when I’m away from home I become a frustrated communicator/collaborator. When I’m abroad, it’s even harder.

More audio

One of the Antony Gormley figures (Another Place) being leaned on by me!I have just completed a day-long session working with the supported learning team at Brooklands College in Weybridge.

It was GREAT.  The section staff, led by Lorraine Crossland, had asked for some advanced input on audio creation and usage techniques – the goal being to better support the learners and to populate their VLE.

I’d visited Brooklands once previously as part of the TechDis Ambassador project and during that first visit had shown them a variety of audio tools, tips and techniques – nothing too advanced but enough to whet their appetite. This second visit was supported by the JISC RSC-SE.

So – why GREAT?

Well, mainly because learners were in attendance all day and I was asked (at fairly short notice) to deliver the afternoon session. All of which was brilliant. The Entry Level 2/3 learners were keen to learn enough about audio but we also told them that they needed to remember these new techniques so that they could support their teachers in the future 🙂

Having already bitten the audio bullet, Lorraine’s staff had planned the day around the sort of things they might encourage learners to do and had begun to work with the learners in preparation for my visit. The morning group were introduced specifically to Audacity and to Balabolka. During  my previous visit, the IT Technicians had been shown how both tools could support learners and had made a sterling effort since to ensure that MyStudyBar and Audacity were available in this room. The power of MyStudyBar had really impressed one of the IT guys – he had some nice ideas for deployment.

606368564My afternoon group, Entry Level 2, had been making PowerPoint files and wanted to add audio to the slides. No problem! It was as if the intervening twelve years hadn’t passed – bang, I was in front of an engaged group with moderate learning difficulties. For ‘engaged’ read: enthusiastic, motivated, keen to learn, enquiring and fun to be with! They loved it!

We started with introductions and I picked up that their favourite lesson (and teacher?) was sport – so I demonstrated the use of audio on their PPTs by using a sport theme. I showed them Audacity and simply inserted the audio file we created. I may well have used Vocaroo but the techies are in discussion with the site because the college firewall won’t let it (Vocaroo) though!  They all shouted “cool” when the audio played – yet when I showed them how to attach the same file to an animation (the sporty image we’d chosen) – so that the description of the image (which is what we’d recorded) they shouted “cool’ even louder.

We set them off to do the same themselves then. Towards the end I called the group back and showed them Balabolka. They ‘got’ this immediately and once the college have grasped how to deploy the TechDis voices across their network – the learners will use it big-time.

As i said at the top – GREAT.