Tag Archive: Internet

Super Simple Timelines


I’m just getting around to writing about this, and I’m probably late to the party as far as this product is concerned, but I’ve discovered a very simple, very effect way to create timelines for websites.

Back in the 1990s Tom Snyder Productions made some of the coolest EdTech software around. One of my favorites was Timeliner. Users could input dates and events, then print out long timelines on fan-fold printer paper with a dot-matrix printer. Along with Print Shop, it was one of my go-to tools for classroom printing.

Timeliner is still around, and has been updated to take advantage of modern technology. I haven’t played with it in ages, so I don’t know what the new version has, and, quite frankly, I no longer need to. I’ve found a much, much better (and free!) product in Northwestern University’s Knight Lab’s Timeline JS. (more…)

Google Image Search


Sometime over the summer, and apparently without enough fanfare for it to ping my sonar, Google announced a new “search by image” service. The idea is that you can either upload an image file, or post a link to an online image, an Google will go out and search either for matches to that image, images that are “visually similar”, or if the image can be identified, links to information about that image. I finally got a few spare minutes to take a look, so I decided to try a few experiments.

Only recently did this new service come to my attention. My fellow Flickr photographer Eric Morris, aka The Rested Traveler, had posted a link on his Facebook page to a blog post where the writer used the image search to see if his images had been used without his permission. Having been the victim of photo theft before, I thought this was a good starting point. (more…)

The Perils of Cloud Computing


Lenticular Clouds

Yahoo is in trouble. That’s not news as it’s been going on for several years now, but it seems to be spiraling out of control even more. This week they announced a 4% reduction in their global workforce. Along with that they have announced the elimination of several popular services, including the social bookmarking site, Del.icio.us.

I have a Del.icio.us account, and have been using it for several years. The Firefox plugin made it easy to bookmark and tag websites, so I had a couple hundred bookmarks in my account. This morning I exported all of those so I could import them into either Google Bookmarks or Diigo.

Of course, this makes me very nervous about another Yahoo company – Flickr. I’ve got nearly 12,000 images on Flickr. If the service should close I won’t lose those images. I keep the originals at home, and I also order an annual backup to DVD. However, it would be a tremendous loss. Every place where I’ve linked to one of my photos would be broken, including the thousands of blog posts on this website. Even if I did transfer to a different hosting service, the amount of time and effort required to fix all of those broken links would make the job nearly impossible. More than that, though, I would also lose all of the organization and comments I’ve gotten on my photos over the years, and the rich social environment that I’ve built up.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like Flickr’s going anywhere anytime soon. It’s one of Yahoo’s most popular (and probably most profitable) properties. Yet these problems with Yahoo do point out problems with relying on computing in the cloud too much. Services upon which one relies could be discontinued at almost any time. A back-up plan is a must. That’s one of the reasons I always get backup DVDs of my Flickr photos.

Google is in better shape than Yahoo, but they are not immune. Right now they have a pilot program in the works where participants receive a laptop with Chrome OS, and do all of their computing on cloud applications. This is all well and good, but you have to be constantly connected in order for it to work. Would this mean that you couldn’t get to your work if you were someplace where Wifi or a 3G signal weren’t available, say, in an airplane? Also, what if Google just up and decided it could not longer support these services. Does this mean that the laptop would become a brick?

Yeah, but Google wouldn’t do that, would they? Actually, they already have on at least one occasion. I used to rely on Google Notebook to do research both for this website and for other projects I had underway. It was a fantastic tool, especially with the Firefox plugin. I could clip bits from web pages and save to my notebooks, and could even publish those notebooks. Google phased this out in favor of SearchWiki, which itself was replaced by Google Stars. None of these subsequent services really replaced the functionality of Notebook, and its loss was a blow.

It doesn’t have to be the elimination of a service to cause grief. It could also be changes in terms of service, or even just an update to the service that changes it substantially in a way that makes it less usable. Several services (such as Ning) have gone from free to paid services when advertising revenue hasn’t done the trick. Unless you’re willing to shell out, then you may be left out.

This probably makes me sound like I think cloud computing is a bad idea. Not at all! I use my little netbook all the time to access Google Documents and lots of other online applications. I think they are great! You don’t have to maintain/upgrade software all the time, and your documents are available on any computer just about anywhere, including mobile devices. You just have to be aware of the drawbacks, and willing make plans for when/if these services should ever become unavailable.

Google Books Explored


books_logo_lg.png by RndConnections on Aviary

Yesterday Google rocked the eBook world by announcing its entry into the market. Their approach is to host everything in the cloud, and all access would be remote. The upside would be that your books are available on any device. The downside would be that you would have to be constantly connected to read them. There’s supposed to be a download option, but I haven’t read up enough on it. In fact, I’m not going to talk about the new service at all (apart from that brief introductory statement.) I’ll let the rest of the blogosphere do that, and perhaps follow up later. Instead, today I’d like to focus on what Google’s been doing all along with it’s Google Books service.

For whatever reason, I really hadn’t paid much attention to everything that was available in Google Books. It was something I knew about and had used on rare occasion. Lately I’ve been exploring it in depth, and I’m really impressed by all the tools available for research and reading. I’ve hinted at this in the last couple of posts, but this time I’ll take one book and put it through its paces. (more…)

Bring Your Own Bandwidth


Tethered Android Phone

While in Washington State last week I didn’t have good Internet access. Laura’s mom still uses AOL dial-up. Neighbor Duff offered access to his WiFi, but we were just out of range. So this was the perfect chance to try tethering my laptop to my HTC Android phone. It worked brilliantly!

I had explored several options for phone tethering. The current crop of broadband modems just seemed like an additional expense for something with limited capabilities. I had almost bought the Palm Pre, which can set itself as a WiFi hub, before settling on my HTC Incredible.

I knew I didn’t want to do anything crazy that involved root access to the phone. I needed something fairly simple, so I first tried PDANet. I’d had some success using the free version connecting to my netbook. However, it was very buggy and kept wanting to crash when I tried connecting it to my larger laptop.

I finally settled on EasyTether, and it worked like a charm. The phone connected to the laptop with no problem, and I was even able to access the drive space on the phone over the USB cable – something that I couldn’t do with PDANet. I wound up purchasing the full version of the program for under $10, which gave me access to https and secure sites. With that I was able to check GMail and remotely log into my district’s network to do some simple maintenance.

I’ve read that 3G speeds are nowhere near as fast as cable or DSL speeds. However, the speeds I got over my phone were pretty darn fast. I didn’t try watching lots of video, but I did see a couple of clips, and they played just fine. I also uploaded lots of high resolution images to Flickr, and those went without a hitch fairly quickly. As far as I could see, there was nothing I couldn’t access that I would normally access from my home Internet connection. (more…)

Google Squared


Google has released two cool new products this week. First, there is a major update to the user interface for Street View.  The transitions between scenes are much smoother, and it reminds me of Microsoft’s Photosynth technology.  One gets the feeling of looking around corners, and actually being immersed in the environment.  For a good example, take a look at Times Square in New York.

As cool as this is, I’m even more excited about the public release of Google Squared, a new search product that creates tables for search results.   I had mourned the demise of Google Notebook, and haven’t really played around with Search Wiki, which is supposed to replace it. This new product is an excellent tool for research and comparison. (more…)

Google Web Elements


Google has made it easy to add cool stuff to your website with the release of Web Elements.  Each of these elements have been available for some time now, most with embed codes or API’s readily available.  Web Elements is a collection of eight tools in one easy-to-find place, each with a simple interface and refined embed code.

With this new set you can get maps to a specified location…

…embed interactive calendars…

…embed presentations and other documents from Google Docs…

…carry on conversations…

…and create custom search functions for your website…


…as well as include news, YouTube news, and spreadsheets on your site.

As I said before, none of these functions are new. Google has just bundled them together nicely with a simple interface. That simplicity can be a hinderance, though. For example, if you want maps with marked paths and multiple waypoints, you’re better off using the Google Maps interface rather than Web Elements.

Still, it’s a nice, quick way to get new content into your website or blog. The nice thing is that you can do all of this from one location, and you don’t have to have a Google API key on your website for each application.

Twitter Hits the Mainstream


Twitter certainly has been getting A LOT of press this past week. On Monday, the Daily Show did a segment on it, John Cleese released something on his video blog about it, Daniel Schorr and Scott Simon discussed it on NPR’s Weekend Edition, and there have been at least three articles about it in the editorial pages of the Greenville News. I think the catalyst was when various politicians were spotted Tweeting during President Obama’s recent Congressional address. If Congresscritters could do it, then it must be (A) easy and (B) the thing to do.

As you might imagine, these stories have run the gamut from those who think it’s the absolutely best thing, and everyone MUST start Twittering (Tweeting?) to those that think it’s a complete waste of time. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. (more…)

21st Century Skills and Employment Reality


Often I’ve written here about my internal conflicts when it comes to use of Internet filters. While I’d love to open up YouTube, the cost in bandwidth and disciplinary problems makes it hard to justify. I may tend to be more liberal than my counterparts in allowing access to the Web, but I also know that filters, however flawed, are necessary, and censorship isn’t the only driving reason for blocking a site.

Recent conversations have shot holes in one argument which presents itself on a regular basis. I have teachers and media specialists tell me that the kids need more access to the web because they need to learn skills for the 21st Century workplace. I would argue that if we REALLY wanted to give them a taste of workplace policies, we’d tighten things down even further.

I’ve spoken to two friends in two different industries – one in research and development and another in a medical-related field. Both said that their Internet access is very tightly controlled. They have NO access to anything that might be construed as non-work-related. (more…)

Reflections on Twitter and The Death of Conversation



A synopsis/compilation of recent conversations…

Me: Yesterday several of my friends and I went for a hike in the…

Sibling/Friend: …yeah, I read that in your blog.

Me: For our anniversary we went to Disney and…

Sibling/Friend: …I saw your posts and pictures online.

Me: Um, is there anything new I can tell you?

Sibling/Friend: [silence]

I began to wonder if blogging and social media had, in fact, killed conversation, rather than enhancing it. (more…)

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