iTunes update

screenshot of iTunes pageMy iTunes has updated twice in as many recent weeks. Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned neither update has improved my listening experience.

I currently have 254 Albums and over the years I have come to know where to find each one in ‘album’ view – I have never liked the ‘song’ or ‘artist’ view.

Furthermore, I tend to have my MacBook Pro screen resolution set at 1152×720 because that has less strain on my eyes.  By default therefore, the iTunes album-icons are huge but until the recent updates, there was a tiny slider (bottom right of the iTunes screen) that I could adjust to reduce the icon size – which made scrolling through my collection quite a breeze.

However, the slider has now gone and there is no way to change the icon size in Tunes. Why?

It’s a question I asked at the Apple Store in the Trafford Centre the other day and no one there could answer.

The update seems to have been to introduce ‘Up Next’ which as far as I can see is something that basically Guilds the Lily. I’ve yet to see a reason for me to use ‘Up Next’ (I already have plenty of Playlists) so, had the icon-size slider still been there, the update wouldn’t have irritated me this much. Another change for change’s sake perhaps.

So Apple. Why?

Magic Mouse

Three types of non-ball miceI’m writing this fairly quickly, because my earlier Tweet regarding the mouse has gained some interest. My problem is that I’m not finding the Magic Mouse @ £56 better than any other mouse I’ve used!

Hitherto, I’ve been using my Gyro Mouse at home. I used a common or garden tiny USB optical mouse all the time I was in the States (my ‘for emergencies’, travel mouse).

All three mice are ball-less and designed to glide over any surface but the Magic Mouse seems to require more wrist action (and strength, although I mean that in the most minuscule of ways; it needs ever such a small amount of extra ‘push’) than the Gyro Mouse (although when used in a non-desk-top situation the Gyro really does require wrist action but it really comes into it’s own at that point).

I’ve had the mouse for over a month but only started using it in anger today as I’d bought one for Sharon’s birthday and couldn’t use mine until she’d been given hers. It really is a cool looking thing and promised the coolest ways of using it. But as yet I haven’t needed to use (found a use for) the two-finger swipe.

I’ve wound up the speeds to fast for scrolling and tracking and it’s OK, but still seems to have a little drag. I’d misread the info, so having to press control (ctrl) for some things is a disappointment.

So, what do I like about it?

  • It’s cool – another design success from the fruit store
  • It saves a USB port – it uses Bluetooth to connect
  • It’s white

And what do I dislike about it?

  • Mmm – paying £56 for something that’s cool, white and saves a USB port. Cost v convenience and hype doesn’t seem to add up. Perhaps I’m wrong?

Thanks to @davefoord, @jamesclay, @jexcope @peterlonsdale and @nathancobb for your comments on Twitter. I hope this 140+ character reply is in order?

Adding Windows to a MacBook Pro

Subtitle: MacBook Pro 4

At Christmas, I began to install Windows onto my MacBook Pro.

I’d bought Parallels Desktop 5 earlier in the month and set myself up to carry out the installation. Being a chef at heart and a user of technology, I liken my ability to carry out technical computer tasks to a good driver not knowing or caring how the car works: fill it up, check all levels – drive away. So I left myself the entire holiday period to go through the installation. I’d guessed (rightly) that this wouldn’t be a simple put it in > click go > installation.

The guy I spoke to at Apple said that I could easily ‘migrate’ my Windows computer lock, stock and barrel, and the Parallels installation literature didn’t shake that belief. But that didn’t happen. To cut a long, frustrating story short; the migration cannot be completed if your Windows computer (lock, stock or no barrel) has OEM software installed. Hey ho. Time to move on.

My idea has been to just carry one laptop with me wherever I go. Most of my training work is with Windows based products but the machines I own, which run Windows are not as reliable as the MacBook Pro. And of course, Windows takes an age to get itself going on a morning. By having Windows working through Parallels, I’d hoped to solve that problem.

Anyway – time passed (I was too busy to be bothered) and I managed to get a (what turned out to be dodgy) copy of Windows XP. Of course, you cannot buy XP anymore and support for it finishes this year; but that’s the version I wanted. So I deleted my part-migrated version and started from scratch. This went OK until I got to the Microsoft Validation page. Oh-no, I’m caught bang to rights. But for £95 I could purchase a validation code. So I did that and away I went.

XP loaded easily after being given a kosher validation code, then I had to go and find the various service packs. It took me back a fair bit to see Windows Movie Maker in its original (pretty bleak) clothing and to then see it as it should be – well dressed and ‘cool’. It all took a while (luckily I was able to do this whilst working on another machine and just clicking ‘go’ every now and again).

  • I downloaded Cam Studio easily enough and it worked (yippee).
  • I downloaded Photo Story 3 and it didn’t work until ….
  • I downloaded Windows Media Player 10 (I hadn’t planned this but PS3 needed it)
  • I downloaded AVG (although I wasn’t sure I needed it – I did!)

So now, all being well I can have a laptop that works when I want it to, as well as a laptop that can do Windows-based stuff – all in one machine! But do I need to install Office 2003 (which I have) or just cope with my Mac version of Office 2008 … Perhaps I need to check and see how the clever interactive stuff works (which doesn’t normally work in Apple!)

Apple pros and cons

Continuing the diary theme: last week continued in the way it started: busy busy busy. I spent my actual birthday at the Apple offices in Regent Street and although much of the day was a repeat for me, I remain impressed by what can be achieved with Apple kit.

I was even more impressed by the iPhone’s accessibility functions. For me, an iPhone skeptic – the accessibility functions appear to be brilliant and I’m on a quest right now to check them out further. I also want to compare them to other phones’ accessible features.

I’m still reserved about the iPhone because although I understand, know and agree that it is a wonderful device – it is not a good phone. No matter what excuses people roll out in its defence the iPhone does not receive calls in places other phones on the same (previously only O2) network can. So come on Apple: up your game a bit here.

Just launched: iPhone via Tesco? Well I never. Sadly, I’m told that they use the same network as O2 so no change there then – just cheaper.

With Sally and Nigel, Sue and Barbara, I then helped to deliver Advanced e-Guides and PDAs in London (Tuesday) and Birmingham (Thursday). I had returned to the Thistle Hotel in Birmingham on Wednesday evening hoping to finally speak with someone in authority about my ‘missing’ camera. Despite phoning and writing to the company, I had had no reply whatsoever to my enquiries. If nothing else, this was very poor customer service by Thistle Hotel Birmingham. I did meet someone and he promised to get back to me within seven days. We’ll see. Full details published here if he doesn’t.

On Friday I visited The Manchester College to meet their MoLeNET team. They are partnering with Burnley College and it was therefore a great pleasure to see them represented by Jo Crumblehome. Jo and I had met several years ago and she gained my tremendous respect for the work she was doing with and for blind learners at the Burnley Football Club (a college outreach centre). We’d met up again last week at Apple but it was still great to realise that Burnley’s project is in safe hands. The Manchester team are another great bunch, firmly focused on learner outcome and effective, pedagogical use of devices.

So – just a week to go before things slacken off for Christmas!

An Apple a day

I’ve just spent the day at the Apple H.Q. in London. Yet, despite all their eminence in the field of technology many of us couldn’t gain access to the WiFi. Many more had no phone or 3G connectivity either. So only later, on board the train, could I contemplate connecting to the internet (via my mobile phone) – and even then it was hit and miss.

It’s been a good day and I’ve come away with a much better understanding of how Apple ‘systems’ can work for the benefit of learners. I suspect that most of those attending the event (arranged for the benefit of MoLeNET projects) enjoyed the day and left much more well informed.

I was just a little worried however, throughout the day, about the principles of the day, which seemed to revolve around content (mainly), institutional teaching and backside covering (this is a flippant reference to the fact that four different levels of institutional agreement have to be signed off before a resource is loaded to iTunes U to make sure that copyright belongs to the institution). iTunes U interested me, as I haven’t yet played with iTunes – although I understand its concept and its use. I think the fact that institutions (still mainly U.S but increasingly worldwide) make many of their resources available online via iTunes U is commendable and that the sharing aspect of this is to be applauded but I feel that it is all quite organisation-centric and that the learner is regarded only as a consumer of product rather than a creator or co-creator. This is born out (for me) by the number of signatories mentioned above (I may be wrong about the four levels signing for each resource – but to set up iTunes U it’s a certainty: so all of the content will need to be heavily vetted).

Provided that we can all access the materials; and I’ve yet to check that because iTunes U doesn’t come up on my iTunes installation (yet?), it will be (is?) a brilliant resource.

But then we come back to content = resource. I had to ask later in the afternoon whether the learners themselves had been considered as a resource. With the kit being employed to deliver todays session (Mick Mullane did a great session on capturing and distributing content – see video I wondered why we were not taking due regard of the opportunities this brilliant kit was making for learners to learn and be assessed. The point was raised that not many learners can afford iPhones or iTouch’s (although this is becoming a more popular possession) and cannot therefore be ‘always on’. But many of the other brands of Smartphone to be found in their pockets are perfectly capable of taking photographs and videos (many of them of better quality too) and transmitting these to the web. Even if there is no data contract in force, many of the phones have WiFi access which can be utilised at home and – in the more enlightened places – at college.

We were shown an interesting graph at the outset, which confirmed my own belief that (MMMmmm – how should I state what ‘that’ is….., let’s say PCs) PC usage will decrease in favour of an ever increasing use of portable/mobile devices. I agree. I suspect therefore that Apple will continue to develop services to support this usage alongside and devoted to its development of world shatteringly good mobile devices.

But please – don’t forget the learner.