Shared posts

24 Jul 13:00

Members Only: How to Make an Interactive Treemap

by Nathan Yau

Treemaps are useful to view and explore hierarchical data. Interaction can help you look at the data in greater detail.

Interactive treemap

Continue reading →

23 Jul 18:06

Editing photos as if they were audio files

by Nathan Yau

paris-echo

Masuma Ahuja and Denise Lu for the Washington Post applied a technique called databending to a bunch of photos. The idea is that computer files — even though they represent different things like documents, images, and audio — encode data in one form or another. It's just that sound files encode beats, notes, and rhythms, whereas image files encode hue, saturation, and brightness. So when you treat image files as if they were audio, you get some interesting results.

See Jamie Boulton's post from a couple of years ago for a detailed description on how to do this yourself with Audacity Effects.

23 Nov 01:40

Tutorial – Send email with the Arduino Yún

by John Boxall

Introduction

This is the third in a series of tutorials examining various uses of the Arduino Yún. In this article we’ll examine how your Arduino Yún can send email from a Google email account. Doing so gives you a neat and simple method of sending data captured by the Arduino Yún or other notifications.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, ensure your Arduino Yún can connect to your network via WiFi or cable – and get a Temboo account (we run through this here). And you need (at the time of writing) IDE version 1.5.4 which can be downloaded from the Arduino website.

Finally, you will need a Google account to send email from, so if you don’t have one – sign up here. You might want to give your Arduino Yún an email address of its very own.

Arduino Yun Yún front

Testing the Arduino Yún-Gmail connection

In this first example we’ll run through the sketch provided by Temboo so you can confirm everything works as it should. This will send a simple email from your Arduino Yún to another email address. First, copy the following sketch into the IDE but don’t upload it yet:

/*
  SendAnEmail

  Demonstrates sending an email via a Google Gmail account using the Temboo Arduino Yun SDK.

  This example code is in the public domain.
*/

#include <Bridge.h>
#include <Temboo.h>
#include "TembooAccount.h" // contains Temboo account information

/*** SUBSTITUTE YOUR VALUES BELOW: ***/

// Note that for additional security and reusability, you could
// use #define statements to specify these values in a .h file.

// your Gmail username, formatted as a complete email address, eg "bob.smith@gmail.com"
const String GMAIL_USER_NAME = "sender@gmail.com";

// your Gmail password
const String GMAIL_PASSWORD = "gmailpassword";

// the email address you want to send the email to, eg "jane.doe@temboo.com"
const String TO_EMAIL_ADDRESS = "recipient@email.com";

boolean success = false; // a flag to indicate whether we've sent the email yet or not

void setup() {
  Serial.begin(9600);

  // for debugging, wait until a serial console is connected
  delay(4000);
  while(!Serial);

  Bridge.begin();
}

void loop()
{
  // only try to send the email if we haven't already sent it successfully
  if (!success) {

    Serial.println("Running SendAnEmail...");

    TembooChoreo SendEmailChoreo;

    // invoke the Temboo client
    // NOTE that the client must be reinvoked, and repopulated with
    // appropriate arguments, each time its run() method is called.
    SendEmailChoreo.begin();

    // set Temboo account credentials
    SendEmailChoreo.setAccountName(TEMBOO_ACCOUNT);
    SendEmailChoreo.setAppKeyName(TEMBOO_APP_KEY_NAME);
    SendEmailChoreo.setAppKey(TEMBOO_APP_KEY);

    // identify the Temboo Library choreo to run (Google > Gmail > SendEmail)
    SendEmailChoreo.setChoreo("/Library/Google/Gmail/SendEmail");

    // set the required choreo inputs
    // see https://www.temboo.com/library/Library/Google/Gmail/SendEmail/ 
    // for complete details about the inputs for this Choreo

    // the first input is your Gmail email address
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("Username", GMAIL_USER_NAME);
    // next is your Gmail password.
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("Password", GMAIL_PASSWORD);
    // who to send the email to
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("ToAddress", TO_EMAIL_ADDRESS);
    // then a subject line
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("Subject", "Email subject line here");

     // next comes the message body, the main content of the email   
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("MessageBody", "Email content");

    // tell the Choreo to run and wait for the results. The 
    // return code (returnCode) will tell us whether the Temboo client 
    // was able to send our request to the Temboo servers
    unsigned int returnCode = SendEmailChoreo.run();

    // a return code of zero (0) means everything worked
    if (returnCode == 0) {
        Serial.println("Success! Email sent!");
        success = true;
    } else {
      // a non-zero return code means there was an error
      // read and print the error message
      while (SendEmailChoreo.available()) {
        char c = SendEmailChoreo.read();
        Serial.print(c);
      }
    } 
    SendEmailChoreo.close();

    // do nothing for the next 60 seconds
    delay(60000);
  }
}

Before uploading you need to enter five parameters – the email address to send the email with, the password for that account, the recipient’s email address, and the email’s subject line and content. These can be found in the following lines in the sketch – for example:

const String GMAIL_USER_NAME = "sender@gmail.com";
const String GMAIL_PASSWORD = "emailpassword";
const String TO_EMAIL_ADDRESS = "recipient@email.com";
SendEmailChoreo.addInput("Subject", "This is the subject line of the email");
SendEmailChoreo.addInput("MessageBody", "And this is the content of the email");

So enter the required data in the fields above. If you’re sending from a Google Apps account instead of a Gmail account – that’s ok, just enter in the sending email address as normal. Temboo and Google will take care of the rest.

Finally, create your header file by copying the the header file data from here (after logging to Temboo) into a text file and saving it with the name TembooAccount.h in the same folder as your sketch from above. You know this has been successful when opening the sketch, as you will see the header file in a second tab, for example:

arduino yun temboo header file

Now you can upload the sketch, and after a few moments check the recipient’s email account. If all goes well you will be informed by the IDE serial monitor as well (if your Yún is connected via USB). It’s satisfying to see an email come from your Arduino Yún, for example in this short video.

If your email is not coming through, connect your Arduino Yún via USB (if not already done so) and open the serial monitor. It will let you know if there’s a problem in relatively plain English – for example:

Error
A Step Error has occurred: “An SMTP error has occurred. Make sure that your credentials are correct and that you’ve provided a fully qualified Gmail
username (e.g., john.smith@gmail.com) for the Username input. When using Google 2-Step Verification, make sure to
provide an application-specific password. If this problem persists, Google may be restricting access to your account, and you’ll need to
explicitly allow access via gmail.com.”. The error occurred in the Stop (Authentication error) step.
HTTP_CODE
500

So if this happens, check your email account details in the sketch, and try again.

Sending email with customisable subject and content data

The example sketch above is fine if you want to send a fixed message. However what if you need to send some data? That can be easily done. For our example we’ll generate some random numbers, and integrate them into the email subject line and content. This will give you the framework to add your own sensor data to emails from your Arduino Yún. Consider the following sketch:

/*
  SendAnEmail

  Demonstrates sending an email via a Google Gmail account using the Temboo Arduino Yun SDK.

  This example code is in the public domain.
*/

#include <Bridge.h>
#include <Temboo.h>
#include "TembooAccount.h" // contains Temboo account information

/*** SUBSTITUTE YOUR VALUES BELOW: ***/

// Note that for additional security and reusability, you could
// use #define statements to specify these values in a .h file.

// your Gmail username, formatted as a complete email address, eg "bob.smith@gmail.com"
const String GMAIL_USER_NAME = "sender@gmail.com";

// your Gmail password
const String GMAIL_PASSWORD = "gmailpassword";

// the email address you want to send the email to, eg "jane.doe@temboo.com"
const String TO_EMAIL_ADDRESS = "recipient@email.com";

int a,b; // used to store our random numbers
boolean success = false; // a flag to indicate whether we've sent the email yet or not

void setup() 
{
  Serial.begin(9600);
  // for debugging, wait until a serial console is connected
  delay(4000);
  while(!Serial);
  Bridge.begin();
  randomSeed(analogRead(0)); // fire up random number generation
}

void loop()
{
  // generate some random numbers to send in the email
  a = random(1000);
  b = random(1000);
  // compose email subject line into a String called "emailSubject"
  String emailSubject("The random value of a is: ");
  emailSubject += a;
  emailSubject += " and b is: ";
  emailSubject += b;  
  // compose email content into a String called "emailContent"
  String emailContent("This is an automated email from your Arduino Yun. The random value of a is: ");
  emailContent += a;
  emailContent += " and b is: ";
  emailContent += b;  
  emailContent += ". I hope that was of some use for you. Bye for now.";  

  // only try to send the email if we haven't already sent it successfully
  if (!success) {

    Serial.println("Running SendAnEmail...");

    TembooChoreo SendEmailChoreo;

    // invoke the Temboo client
    // NOTE that the client must be reinvoked, and repopulated with
    // appropriate arguments, each time its run() method is called.
    SendEmailChoreo.begin();

    // set Temboo account credentials
    SendEmailChoreo.setAccountName(TEMBOO_ACCOUNT);
    SendEmailChoreo.setAppKeyName(TEMBOO_APP_KEY_NAME);
    SendEmailChoreo.setAppKey(TEMBOO_APP_KEY);

    // identify the Temboo Library choreo to run (Google > Gmail > SendEmail)
    SendEmailChoreo.setChoreo("/Library/Google/Gmail/SendEmail");

    // set the required choreo inputs
    // see https://www.temboo.com/library/Library/Google/Gmail/SendEmail/ 
    // for complete details about the inputs for this Choreo

    // the first input is your Gmail email address
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("Username", GMAIL_USER_NAME);
    // next is your Gmail password.
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("Password", GMAIL_PASSWORD);
    // who to send the email to
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("ToAddress", TO_EMAIL_ADDRESS);
    // then a subject line
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("Subject", emailSubject); // here we send the emailSubject string as the email subject

     // next comes the message body, the main content of the email   
    SendEmailChoreo.addInput("MessageBody", emailContent); // and here we send the emailContent string

    // tell the Choreo to run and wait for the results. The 
    // return code (returnCode) will tell us whether the Temboo client 
    // was able to send our request to the Temboo servers
    unsigned int returnCode = SendEmailChoreo.run();

    // a return code of zero (0) means everything worked
    if (returnCode == 0) {
        Serial.println("Success! Email sent!");
        success = true;
    } else {
      // a non-zero return code means there was an error
      // read and print the error message
      while (SendEmailChoreo.available()) {
        char c = SendEmailChoreo.read();
        Serial.print(c);
      }
    } 
    SendEmailChoreo.close();

    // do nothing for the next 60 seconds
    delay(60000);
  }
}

Review the first section at the start of void loop(). We have generated two random numbers, and then appended some text and the numbers into two Strings – emailContent and emailSubject.

These are then inserted into the SendEmailChoreo.addInput lines to be the email subject and content. With a little effort you can make a neat email notification, such as shown in this video and the following image from a mobile phone:

arduino yun email demonstration

Conclusion

It’s no secret that the Yún isn’t the cheapest development board around, however the ease of use as demonstrated in this tutorial shows that the time saved in setup and application is more than worth the purchase price of the board and extra Temboo credits if required.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Arduino, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

The post Tutorial – Send email with the Arduino Yún appeared first on tronixstuff.

23 Jul 17:21

Big Blue and Apple’s Soul

by Ben Thompson

I hope you’ll forgive my writing about week-old news,1 but I find it striking to compare the paucity of words written about Apple’s partnership with IBM, at least relative to what was written when Apple acquired Beats. After all, the IBM partnership is a much bigger deal.

It certainly seems that Tim Cook feels the same. On yesterday’s earnings call Cook spent, by my count, five times the amount of time talking about IBM than he did Beats2, much of it unprompted by questions. The key paragraph was this one:

We also are in the — virtually all Fortune 500 companies, we are in 99% of them to be exact and 93% of the Global 500…[but] the penetration in business is low. It’s only 20%. And to put that in some kind of context, if you looked at penetration of notebooks in business, it would be over 60%. And so we think that there is a substantial upside in business. And this was one of the thinkings behind the partnership with IBM that we announced last week. We think that the core thing that unleashes this is a better go to market, which IBM clearly brings to the table

In other words, lots of enterprises have dabbled with iOS, but Apple doesn’t have an effective way to sell more.

Apple is in a fascinating position when it comes to the enterprise: it turns out that iOS is the best choice for enterprise from a product perspective.3 Blackberry has the integration, but everything else is obsolete; Android has less-effective device management built in and suffers from the usual Android fragmentation issues (which are improving),4 while Windows Phone, shockingly, has only in the last update added basics such as VPN support.5

However, especially in the enterprise, product is not enough; in fact, very few devices are sold to enterprises as-is. Rather, they are delivered as part of “solutions”, the total cost of which is multiples greater than the underlying device. These “solutions” include things like custom software, implementation, training, consulting, and service contracts. Each of these pieces is fully customizable and negotiable for each enterprise customer, and it is for this you need a massive sales force. Ultimately, no matter how good of a product the iPhone may be, without the sales force and willingness to build “solutions” – the right go-to-market, in Cook’s words – Apple was never going to fully realize the enterprise opportunity.

The problem is that building said sales force is massively expensive, and not just in dollars: it has a big impact on a company’s culture.6 As Jobs wrote in his biography:

The company starts valuing the great salesmen, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues, not the product engineers and designers. So the salespeople end up running the company. John Akers at IBM was a smart, eloquent, fantastic salesperson, but he didn’t know anything about product. The same thing happened at Xerox. When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter as much, and a lot of them just turn off. It happened at Apple when Sculley came in, which was my fault, and it happened when [Steve] Ballmer took over at Microsoft. Apple was lucky and it rebounded, but I don’t think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it.

To Jobs this was anathema. If Jobs was adamant about anything it was that Apple always focus on creating the best possible product. If that meant forgoing a massively lucrative enterprise market, then so be it.

That, though, is what makes this partnership so brilliant for Apple. By offloading everything onto IBM – who is playing the role of whats called a “Value-added reseller” (VAR) – Apple can now sell into the enterprise without building the sales capability that in the long run would be poisonous to the product-centric mindset that is their ultimate differentiator.

To be clear, while I’ve been writing from Apple’s perspective, this is an even bigger deal for IBM. As I just noted, the total cost of a VAR “solution” is usually multiples greater than the cost of the underlying device or software; fully integrating a device into an enterprise is a messy business, but dealing with messiness is not only worth a lot of money, it also entails building deep and ongoing relationships with the company you are servicing. In other words, when it comes to the sort of enterprise deals that IBM is going to put together, iOS devices are much closer to commodities; it is IBM that will provide the most value from the enterprise’s perspective. This is a risk for Apple: it’s certainly possible to envision a scenario where IBM switches out iOS for another platform, and there will be nothing Apple can really do about that.

I’m sure, though, that Apple is well aware of this and counts it as a price they are willing to pay7 (in addition to the commission they’ll likely pay IBM on each iPhone or iPad, in case it’s not clear who will be the lead in this partnership). Apple is getting access to a massive market that had long been off-limits, and they are doing so without giving up their product-centric soul.

  1. I was on vacation at the time
  2. 777 words versus 174
  3. It’s hard to overstate what a change this is; Apple has always prioritized the user experience over features, but in a market where the buyer is not the user, a user experience advantage is worthless. That’s what Steve Jobs was driving at in this classic clip
  4. Note: I originally said Android lacked device management completely, which was not right. I apologize for the error
  5. There is no greater example of Microsoft’s misplaced hubris than in launching Windows Phone without any enterprise features in the belief they could knock the iPhone off in the consumer market. Remember this?
  6. To be clear, I have no problem with sales forces or their effect on culture – they are critical for enterprise businesses. The issue is when you try to do both enterprise and consumer
  7. This is also an interesting contrast to Apple and Google Maps; in this case, Apple is prioritizing their culture over control. When it came to maps Apple prioritized control over the product

The post Big Blue and Apple’s Soul appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

22 Jul 19:54

Why we didn’t pick Apple’s Airport Extreme as Best Router

by Erica Ogg

After some reader feedback, we ran Apple’s Airport Extreme router through the same tests as our finalists for Best Wi-Fi Router. It’s still not something we recommend for most people, but we have more data to show why.

22 Jul 13:06

Q2 Feature Round-Up

by SHansen

A Complete List of Recent AlchemyAPI Updates

For most of us, summer means backyard BBQs, beach vacations, and relaxing by the pool. While our team members at AlchemyAPI have gotten their fill of hamburgers and potato salad, we have also been busy adding new features to our natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision solutions.

With AlchemyAPI’s NLP and computer vision APIs, customers gain access to updates the moment they become available. Read on to learn about the most recent enhancements and visit our Recent Updates timeline for additional information.

1. Combined Call
With AlchemyAPI’s combined call, you are able to analyze a single piece of content (URL, HTML, Text) with multiple text and image analysis features all at once.

2. Publication Date API
This newly available API helps you group articles by extracting publication date information from web pages and normalizing the data to give you standardized formats. This API solves the problem of determining a publication date when faced with the following challenges: varied date formats (05/10/2014 or May 10th, 2014 or the 10th of May 2014), placement on the webpage (header, h1, main body), and differentiating between multiple dates on a page.

Publication date extraction combined with other text analysis features enables the generation of tag clouds, sentiment towards specific topics, and more on a temporal basis.

3. New Web Page Cleaning
The new web page cleaning system is more accurate, has increased precision on extracting the main text from article pages, and recognizes a wider variety of types of pages and handles them appropriately. Overall, the new system makes text extraction results more meaningful and is able to extract data from a larger percentage of pages than was previously possible.

4. Constituent Parser
The constituent parser builds a parse tree from the words in a sentence. Parse trees are useful structures to show the relationship between words. For example, in the phrase "new cars and trucks," we know that the word "new" applies to both cars and trucks. AlchemyAPI's technology understands the structure of complex sentences and we are now exposing this powerful process to customers.

5. New Taxonomy
In Q2, we rolled out a significant taxonomy update, offering improved accuracy on web page content analysis. Confidence scores have been improved to more accurately convey when the results can be trusted. If you need custom categories, we can help with that, too. Contact us for more information.

6. Hashtag Sentiment
Sentiment hashtag decomposition makes it possible to determine the sentiment of hashtags by splitting them into individual words and commonly used phrases.

7. AlchemyVisionImage Link Extraction and Image Tagging
With AlchemyVision, you can now apply deep learning innovations to understand a picture’s content and context.

Given any URL, the Image Link Extraction API will scan the designated page to find the most prominent image and directly retrieve the URL for that image. It can then be appropriately classified and tagged. You can use the Image Link Extraction API to aggregate images and understand the context in which they are being served.

With the Image Tagging API, you can quickly categorize and organize image libraries at a massive scale. By understanding complex visual scenes in their broader context, you can automatically extract knowledge from images and act upon what you learn.

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24 Jul 00:00

Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League


William Deresiewicz, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118747/ivy-league-schools-are-overrated-send-your-kids-elsewhere, Jul 26, 2014


As I commented on Twitter the other day, I rarely agree with what I read in New Republic, but this article hits much more than it misses. So while you shouldn't consider this post to be a blanket endorsement of everything in the article, it is certainly recommended. "The more prestigious the school, the more unequal its student body is apt to be," writes William Deresiewicz. And as the selection process bcomes more rigorous it becomes more unequal as parents spend the time and money necessary to position their children for admission. "Elite colleges are not just powerless to reverse the movement toward a more unequal society; their policies actively promote it."

[Link] [Comment]
22 Jul 16:44

You are supposed to break the rules

by Jevon MacDonald

Great entrepreneurs truly do not care about the rules.

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of rules.

Some come and go with the times, others never seem to go away:

  • You are supposed to dress a certain way
  • Finance your company this way
  • You pitch deck should look like THIS
  • You, in your industry, with your product, it’s not the way it’s done

And there are the big rules, the regulations:

Great companies are built by breaking rules. We call them ‘norms’ but they are rigid and they feel real until someone destroys our idea about ‘how it’s done’.

  • Marc Benioff decided to sell software as a service when everyone believed they had to install software on premise
  • Steve Jobs built expensive but beautiful machines when every other hardware company believed they had to be cheap.

and so many more.

And it’s happening, there are more great stories of breaking the rules and the amazing companies that result:

  • Figure1 is breaking the rules in Healthcare
  • Wattpad has done away with not only publishers, but with most of the old creative process

Who else comes to mind?

Sometimes a pure rethinking of technology can completely rewrite the rulebook. Bitcoin is readily looked at as an alternative to fiat currency, something that was unthinkable before a purely electronic currency was conceived.

Breaking the rules goes by many different names like ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’ but they all start with someone rethinking an old way of doing business. When we look back on what they’ve accomplished we often like to call these rule breakers ‘clever’, ‘brilliant’ or ‘strategic’. The truth is that they didn’t get ahead by adding complexity, or navigating what existed. Most of the time they were able to get ahead by pushing aside the rules and focusing on the opportunity.

The rules almost always come to mind later.

As the world becomes more and more ‘wired’ I believe that startups will run in to regulatory hurdles more and more often. Like uber, AirBnB, Lyft and others, the rules sometimes represent a massive opportunity to create efficiencies in a place everyone else thought was off limits.

There are little rules, and there a big rules. No matter which stage a company is at, it’s the rule breakers who get noticed, they are the ones who crack a market open and feed off the the plump center.

22 Jul 15:26

MOOCs as Partworks

by Tony Hirst

A couple of recent posts crossed my feeds recently mooching around the idea that doing is MOOC is Like Reading a Newspaper; or not: MOOC Completion Rates DO Matter.

First up, Downes suggests that:

The traditional course is designed like a book – it is intended to run in a sequence, the latter bits build on the first bits, and if you start a book and abandon it p[art way through there is a real sense in which you can say the book has failed, because the whole point of a book is to read it from beginning to end.

But our MOOCs are not designed like that. Though they have a beginning and an end and a range of topics in between, they're not designed to be consumed in a linear fashion the way a book it. Rather, they're much more like a magazine or a newspaper (or an atlas or a city map or a phone book). The idea is that there's probably more content than you want, and that you're supposed to pick and choose from the items, selecting those that are useful and relevant to your present purpose.

And so here's the response to completion rates: nobody ever complained that newspapers have low completion rates. And yet no doubt they do,. Probably far below the 'abysmal' MOOC completion rates (especially if you include real estate listings and classified ads). People don't read a newspaper to complete it, they read a newspaper to find out what's important.

Martin (Weller) responds:

Stephen Downes has a nice analogy, (which he blogged at my request, thankyou Stephen) in that it's like a newspaper, no-one drops out of a newspaper, they just take what they want. This has become repeated rather like a statement of fact now. I think Stephen's analogy is very powerful, but it is really a statement of intent. If you design MOOCs in a certain way, then the MOOC experience could be like reading a newspaper. The problem is 95% of MOOCs aren't designed that way. And even for the ones that are, completion rates are still an issue.

Here's why they're an issue. MOOCs are nearly always designed on a week by week basis (which would be like designing a newspaper where you had to read a certain section by a certain time). I've blogged about this before, but from Katy Jordan's data we reckon 45% of those who sign up, never turn up or do anything. It's hard to argue that they've had a meaningful learning experience in any way. If we register those who have done anything at all, eg just opened a page, then by the end of week 2 we're down to about 35% of initial registrations. And by week 3 or 4 it's plateauing near 10%. The data suggests that people are definitely not treating it like a newspaper. In Japan some research was done on what sections of newspapers people read.

He goes on:

... Most MOOCs are about 6-7 weeks long, so 90% of your registered learners are never even looking at 50% of your content. That must raise the question of why are you including it in the first place? If a subject requires a longer take at it, beyond 3 weeks say, then MOOCs really may not be a very good approach to it. There is a hard, economic perspective here, it costs money to make and run MOOCs, and people will have to ask if the small completion rates are the most effective way to get people to learn that subject. You might be better off creating more stand alone OERs, or putting money into better supported outreach programmes where you can really help people stay with the course. Or maybe you will actually design your MOOC to be like a newspaper.

So...

I buy three newspapers a week - the Isle of Wight County Press (to get a feel for what's happened and is about to happen locally, as well as seeing who's currently recruiting), the Guardian on a Saturday (see what news stories made it as far as Saturday comment, do the Japanese number puzzles, check out the book reviews, maybe read the odd long form interview and check a recipe or two), and the Observer on a Sunday (read colleagues' columns, longer form articles by journalists I know or have met, check out any F1 sports news that made it into that paper, book reviews, columns, and Killer again...).

So I skim bits, have old faithfuls I read religiously, and occasionally follow through on a long form article that was maybe advertised on the cover and I might have missed otherwise.

Newspapers are organised in a particular way, and that lets me quickly access the bits I know I want to access, and throw the rest straight onto the animal bedding pile, often unread and unopened.

So MOOCs are not really like that, at least, not for me.

For me MOOCs are freebie papers I've picked up and then thrown, unread, onto the animal bedding pile. For me.

What I can see, though, as MOOCs as partworks. Partworks are those titles you see week on week in the local newsagent with a new bit on the cover that, if collected over weeks and months and assembled in the right way, result in a flimsy plastic model you've assembled yourself with an effective cost price running into hundreds of pounds.

[Retro: seems I floated the MOOC as partwork idea before - Online Courses or Long Form Journalism? Communicating How the World Works… - and no-one really bit then either...]

In the UK, there are several notable publishers of partwork titles, including for example Hachette, De Agostini,Eaglemoss. Check out their homepages – then check out the homepages of a few MOOC providers. (Note to self – see if any folk working in marketing of MOOC platform providers came from a partwork publishing background.)

Here’s a riff reworking the Wikipedia partwork page:

A partworkMOOC is a written publicationan online course released as a series of planned magazine-like issueslessons over a period of time. IssuesLessons are typically released on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis, and often a completed set is designed to form a reference work oncomplete course in a particular topic.

Partwork seriesMOOCs run for a determined length and have a finite life. Generally, partworksMOOCs cover specific areas of interest, such as sports, hobbies, or children’s interest and stories such as PC Ace and the successful The Ancestral Trail series by Marshall Cavendish Ltdrandom university module subjects, particularly ones that tie in to the telly or hyped areas of pseudo-academic interest. They are generally sold at newsagents and are mostly supported by massive television advertising campaigns for the launchhosted on MOOC platforms because exploiting user data and optimising user journeys through learning content is something universities don't really understand and avoid trying to do. In the United Kingdom, partworksMOOCs are usually launched by heavy television advertising each Januarymentioned occasionally in the press, often following a PR campaign by the UK MOOC platfrom, FutureLearn.

PartworksMOOCs often include cover-mounted items with each issue that build into a complete set over time. For example, a partwork about artMOOC might include a small number of paints or pencils that build into a complete art-setso-called "badges" that can be put into an online "backpack" to show off to your friends, family, and LinkedIn trawlers; a partwork about dinosaurs might include a few replica bones that build a complete model skeleton at the end of the series; a partwork about films may include a DVD with each issue. In Europe, partworks with collectable models are extremely popular; there are a number of different publications that come with character figurines or diecast model vehicles, for example: The James Bond Car Collection.

In addition, completed partworksMOOCs have sometimes been used as the basis for receiving a non-academic credit bearing course completion certificate, or to create case-bound reference works and encyclopediasa basis for a piece of semi-formal assessment and recognition. An example is the multi-volume Illustrated Science and Invention Encyclopedia which was created with material first published in the How It Works partworkNEED TO FIND A GOOD EXAMPLE.

In the UK, partworksMOOCs are the fourth-best selling magazine sector, after TV listing guides, women’s weeklies and women’s monthliesNEED SOME NUMBERS HERE*.... A common inducement is a heavy discount for the first one or two issues??HOW DO MOOCs SELL GET SOLD?. The same seriesMOOC can be sold worldwide in different languages and even in different variations.

* Possibly useful starting point? BBC News Magazine: Let’s get this partwork started

The Wikipedia page goes on to talk about serialisation (ah, the good old days when I still had hoped for feeds and syndication… eg OpenLearn Daily Learning Chunks via RSS and then Serialised OpenLearn Daily RSS Feeds via WordPress) and the Pecia System (new to me), which looks like it could provide an interesting starting point on a model of peer-co-created learning, or somesuch. There’s probably a section on it in this year’s Innovating Pedagogy report. Or maybe there isn’t?!;-)

Sort of related but also not, this article from icrossing on ‘Subscribe is the new shop.’ – Are subscription business models taking over? and John Naughton’s column last week on the (as then, just leaked) Kindle subscription model – Kindle Unlimited: it’s the end of losing yourself in a good book, I’m reminded of Subscription Models for Lifelong Students and Graduate With Who (Whom?!;-), Exactly…?, which several people argued against and which I never really tried to defend, though I can’t remember what the arguments were, and I never really tried to build a case with numbers in it to see whether or not it might make sense. (Because sometimes you think the numbers should work out in your favour, but then they don’t… as in this example: Restaurant Performance Sunk by Selfies [via RBloggers].)

Erm, oh yes – back to the MOOCs.. and the partworks models. Martin mentioned the economics – just thinking about the partwork model (pun intended, or maybe not) here, how are parts costed? Maybe an expensive loss leader part in week 1, then cheap parts for months, then the expensive parts at the end when only two people still want them? How will print on demand affect partworks (newsagent has a partwork printer round the back to print of the bits that are needed for whatever magazines are sold that week?) And how do the partwork costing models then translate to MOOC production and presentation models?

Big expensively produced materials in front loaded weeks, then maybe move to smaller presentation methods, get the forums working a little better with smaller, more engaged groups? How about the cMOOC ideas – up front in early weeks, or pushed back to later weeks, where different motivations, skills, interest and engagement models play out.

MOOCs are newspapers? Nah… MOOCs as partwork – that works better as a model for me. (You can always buy a partwork mid-way through because you are interested in that week’s content, or the content covered by the magazine generally, not because you are interested in the plastic model or badge.

Thinks: hmm, partworks come in at least two forms, don’t they – one to get pieces to build a big model of a boat or a steam train or whatever. The other where you get a different superhero figurine each week and the aim it attract the completionist. Which isn’t to say that part 37 might not be stupidly popular because it has a figure that is just generally of interest, ex- of being part of a set?


22 Jul 14:35

Is Nadella Going To Do Something Big, Or Just Fiddle Around?

Ben Thompson thinks the only jhope for Microsoft is a break-up, This is in parallel with what I have been saying: if Microsoft is to grown into a modern enterprise software player, Nadella will have to jettison Windows.

Here’s Thompson’s take:

Ben Thompson, It’s Time to Split Up Microsoft

For all the talk of moving beyond Windows (and Windows Phone), I am deeply skeptical that Microsoft can truly pursue its potential as a software and services company as long as Windows is around. Culture is developed over years, and for decades everything at Microsoft was about Windows. Read again Ballmer’s statement:

Nothing is more important at Microsoft than Windows

The problem for Nadella and Microsoft is that ultimately this wasn’t a declaration of strategy; it was a declaration of fact, and facts don’t change by fiat.

[…]

In other words, keep Windows as a cash cow, but be explicit that the future was in cross-platform services. Unfortunately, this was before the Nokia deal. The effects of that deal – and understanding why it was made – have convinced me that Microsoft cannot truly reach its potential as a services company as long as Windows and the entire devices business is in tow.

In short, it’s time to break Microsoft up.

[…]

I would create two companies: the devices side, which includes Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox, and let them do the best they can to grow that 14% [the percentage of total devices running Windows COO Kevin Turner talked about last week]. Heck, make Kevin Turner the CEO. Windows profits will keep the company going for quite a while, and who knows, maybe they’ll nail what is next.

The other company, the interesting company, is the services side – the productivity side, to use Nadella’s descriptor. This company would be built around Office, Azure, and Microsoft’s consumer web services including Bing, Skype and OneDrive. These products don’t need Windows; they need permission to be the best regardless of device.

Of course, the Windows company does need Office, and Azure, and all the other Microsoft growth engines, and this cleavage would likely hasten Windows’ decline. But that’s exactly why a split needs to happen: anything Office or Azure or Microsoft’s other services do to prop up Windows – that focuses on that 14% – by definition limits Microsoft’s opportunity to address the far bigger part of the pie that ought to be the future.

We’ll have to see if Nadella does any of this, but so far all he has done is announce layoffs and cancel the Android experiment on Nokia phones.

Will Nadella be a Tim Cook or a Marissa Mayer? Will he have the courage and vision to steer a post-Ballmer/post-Gates Microsoft into a new future, or will he lose years fiddling at the margins and ‘building culture’ while Apple, Amazon, and Google come to dominate the enterprise space? 

22 Jul 13:15

"Is there another form of communication besides email where the acknowledged goal is to hide all of..."

“Is there another form of communication besides email where the acknowledged goal is to hide all of the communication? Email has evolved into a weird medium of communication where the best thing you can do is destroy it quickly, as if every email were a rabid bat attacking your face. Yet even the tragically email-burdened still have a weird love for this particular rabid, face-attacking bat. People love to tweet about how overwhelming it all is. They write articles about email bankruptcy and proclaim their inbox zero status. Email is broken, everyone agrees, but it’s the devil we know. Besides, we’re just one app away from happiness. A tremendous amount of human energy goes into propping up the technological and cultural structure of email. It’s too big to fail.”

-

Paul Ford, Doomed to Repeat It

23 Jul 23:33

And how’s your week going?

by pricetags

Better than SkyTrain’s, I’m guessing.

Is the near-30 year-old showing its age?  As a reminder of its cutting-edge technology, reporter Jon Woodward passed along this documentary from 1985:

Going to Town is a 30 minute 1985 documentary by JEM Productions for B.C. Transit, capturing the genesis of the SkyTrain project and its construction. Featuring James “Quick” Parker of the B.C. Lions and a killer sax-filled soundtrack! (The solo is at 26:45.)

.

A few thoughts:

  • The more reliable the technology, the less tolerance we have for its failure.
  • We hold transit to a different standard than car-based transportation.  Radio stations, every weekday from 4 to 7 pm, will report all the failures on roads throughout Metro.  A fan-belt breaking on a bridge or tunnel can result in delays for thousands – and that’s just a typical day.
  • I thought it might be faster to take a taxi this morning than transit.  After waiting without notice for 30 minutes for the taxi to show, I gave up.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a door to break open – and it only affected me.  I will, however, take taxis again.
  • The only thing that will restore trust is continued reliable performance of the SkyTrain system.  But for the confidence of the public, a review is in order by a trusted third party: to explain what happened, to suggest improvements in response, and, most importantly, to project what will be needed to maintain a high level of performance as the transit system ages and is subject to ever-increasing demand.

Any other thoughts, readers?


23 Jul 23:02

Affordable Housing in San Francisco

by pricetags

Ray Spaxman passes on this piece from dezeen:

Brooklyn artist Mark Reigelman and San Francisco architect Jenny Chapman have installed a wooden hut in an unusual city location – suspended on the side of a San Francisco hotel like a bird box.

.

dezeen_Manifest-Destiny-by-Mark-Reigelman_1

.

The concept:

Manifest Destiny! is about our God-given imperative as modern explorers, to seek out parcels of unclaimed territory and boldly establish a new home front in the remaining urban voids of San Francisco.

Lights visible through the windows give the impression that someone is home with electricity generated from a solar panel mounted onto the roof.

.

dezeen_Manifest-Destiny-by-Mark-Reigelman_4


22 Jul 17:50

The Daily Scot

by pricetags

Good friend Scot Bathgate is someone Price Tags readers know well – even if not by name.  Scot is a relentless tweeter and reference for me of great links I often use for this blog.

Scot, a Canuck and urban designer, has been based in Auckland, New Zealand, for many years – but is now back in Vancouver.  So I’m taking advantage of his curiosity, insightfulness and sheer output to post items under his name, often quick snaps of Vancouver seen through his urbanist eyes.

Here’s the first issue of The Daily Scot:

Great old narrow building between Kingsway and Main in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver. Great activation both sides.

Mt P


24 Jul 06:50

Twitter Favorites: [ReneeStephen] Oh, Drupal.

Renée Stephen @ReneeStephen
Oh, Drupal.
23 Jul 18:07

Amazon Fire Phone review roundup: Americans are taking one for the team

by Ian Hardy

Amazon announced its first foray into the smartphone market last month with the Fire phone. The device runs Fire OS 3.5, which is a customized version of Android, and sports a 4.7 IPS LCD HD display, 2.2GHz quad-core processor with Adreno 330 graphics processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 13MP shooter.

Most of the uniqueness comes from within the Fire Phone, namely the 3D feature Amazon calls ‘Dynamic Perspective,’ which allows you to view objects on the display from multiple angles just by tilting the phone. In addition, FireFly is embedded within every Fire Phone and brings the ability to simply scan various products via the camera lens and purchase it directly from Amazon.

The Fire Phone will ship this week and for now is an AT&T exclusive in the United States for $199.99 on a two-year agreement, or at $649 (32GB) or $749 (64GB) off contract. There is no immediate plans for Amazon to bring the Fire Phone to Canada, but are we missing out? The early review say nay. Here’s a roundup of what various tech sites have to say about Amazon’s first smartphone:


The Verge:

“Time and time again, however, the Fire Phone has reminded me that there’s a difference between good ideas about phones and good phones. A big difference.”

“The five (yes, five) cameras that peer out from the phone’s front panel are nakedly shown, and they just feel out of place, like exposed screws in luxury furniture. Yet they’re the only distinctive thing about the Fire Phone”

“The rear-facing, 13-megapixel shooter in particular takes clean and clear images in most situations, as good as almost any Android phone I’ve used. It’s slow, though, occasionally painfully so, and it has focusing problems that really hurt video capture — footage I shot was often pulsing in and out, hunting for focus. The Fire Phone takes good photos when you get the shot, but it’s definitely prone to missing it.”

“Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it’s incredibly, hilariously inconsistent. It figured out the type of Jelly Beans I was shopping for, but only offered them to me in massive bulk. It identified my Dove deodorant as the wrong scent; it turned green tea into citrus; it logged the wrong kind of Trident gum.”

“Firefly is a powerful idea let down by its execution”

“Dynamic Perspective makes for awesomely fun lock screens with much more to them than first meets the eye, but it does nothing to meaningfully improve the smartphone experience.”

“Ultimately, the success and potential of the Fire Phone rests on Firefly and Dynamic Perspective — cool technologies that both rely on developers finding better ways to use them. Right now, they’re just fixing a problem nobody has.”


Wall Street Journal:

“[...]the Fire is the grown-up equivalent of a 9-year-old riding a bike with his hands in the air. “Look, Ma, no hands!” It’s a neat gimmick, but it won’t get you very far.”

“In the past five days, I couldn’t once get the Fire’s battery to last to day’s end—a telephonic cardinal sin.”

“Don’t expect to get all the apps you love: Though it runs on a version of Google’s Android operating system, Google apps like Maps, Drive and YouTube are locked out. And the Fire can’t transfer most app purchases from previous phones.”

“The controls that track your head, which Amazon calls “dynamic perspective,” never become as natural and predictable as just touching the screen with your fingers.”

“The Fire does some things well. None is a reason most people would switch.”


Engadget:

“Amazon’s debut phone isn’t bad, per se, but there’s little incentive for anyone to switch carriers or platforms to buy it. Its unique features don’t provide enough utility, and come at the expense of both battery life and performance.”

“Amazon appears to have put so much effort on the Fire phone’s unique features that it didn’t focus on making the device attractive. It looks more like a prototype than a phone that’s supposed to compete against well-designed beauts like the iPhone 5s, LG G3 and HTC One M8.”

“Though it’s not horrible by any means, the Fire’s display quality is not on par with other flagships.”

“One of the biggest disappointments about the Fire phone is its agreement with AT&T. It’s also not launching with any international availability. Even worse, the phone is locked to only function with AT&T SIM cards, so if you plan to travel internationally, you’ll need to be lucky enough to get an unlock code, either through the carrier or unofficial means.”

“Dynamic Perspective works well most of the time, but I still noticed plenty of flaws. Choppiness was the most frequent issue, and it usually occurred because I was moving my head around too much and the sensors simply couldn’t keep up.”

“My calls into Mayday connected between 10 and 20 seconds, with my average wait time coming out to the promised 15 seconds. With my permission, each rep was able to view and remotely control my device to answer my questions; one rep even drew on my screen to show me how to get to a desired feature.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.55.36 AM

IMG_1854

ZDNet:

“The bottom line for me is that I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the Fire even though it’s unclear how Dynamic Perspective and Firefly ultimately fare among developers and the broader market.”

“There’s nothing more annoying than a smartphone with a camera that doesn’t measure up. The Fire Phone’s camera measured up and worked well in the field. Amazon doesn’t overwhelm you with settings. Editing tools worked well. The setting that’s most interesting is Fire’s lenticular setting, which takes a series of shots to create a 3D view”

“Firefly’s performance was decent, but there were multiple times where it didn’t recognize the product. I was hoping that Firefly could scan my pantry, focus on the cereal shelf and then create a list for me so I could schedule delivery. That scenario didn’t quite work out. Firefly’s database needs to evolve”


New York Times:

“Some of the Fire Phone’s headline features feel as if they were born of the same superficial impulse.”

“Dynamic Perspective provides a sensation of three-dimensional imagery. While technically impressive, the system rarely makes for a substantive improvement in how you’ll use your phone… Other instances of Dynamic Perspective are downright annoying. Take Auto Scroll.”

“Also, this phone is no looker. An indistinct slab of glass and plastic, the Fire Phone looks more like a minimalist prototype than a finished product.”

23 Jul 15:49

CRTC challenging telcos over additional fees for paper billing

by Ian Hardy

The CRTC has announced a pro-consumer initiative that’s takes aim at both telecom and broadcast companies and how they sometimes charge customers an additional fee for receiving a paper bill.

The CRTC today declared today that it will start meeting with various Canadian organizations to discuss the practice of charging customers an additional fee if they opt in to receive paper billing versus an electronic bill. The CRTC notes that “there is a wide variation in how companies approach paper bill fees.” Most Canadian wireless carriers note on their site that “If you choose to receive a paper invoice, a $2 fee (per invoice) will apply.” However, some carriers have opted to discount the fee based on the number of additional services you bundle in.

As of November 2013, 36 companies stated they don’t charge fees for a paper bill, while 27 revealed they do. “There is no consistent practice across the industry,” said the CRTC, and its approach is not taken into account the specific circumstances of some Canadians.” The Canadian regulatory body said they are challenging the “communications industry to come up with a clear and predictable approach” to address this consumer issue. The paper bill fee reportedly ranges between $0.99 to $5.95 per month for paper bills.

Jean-Pierre Blais, CRTC Chairman, said, “We are concerned that not all Canadians have a reasonable choice when it comes to paper bill fees for communications services. We are challenging telecommunications and broadcasting distribution companies to come up with a comprehensive approach that will enable Canadians to make informed decisions. We are prepared to explore regulatory options if the industry fails to find an appropriate approach.”

SourceNewswire
22 Jul 17:57

Xiaomi announces new flagship Mi4 phone and $13 fitband

by Jane McEntegart

Xiaomi’s Mi3 smartphone was the world’s first Tegra 4 smartphone (the company also made another version running on the Snapdragon 800), and now the company is introducing its 2014 flagship in the form of the Mi4.

Like the WCDMA version of the Mi3, the Mi4 is based on a Qualcomm SoC; in fact it’s the same quad-core Snapdragon 801 that’s in the Galaxy S5. It also boasts a 5-inch 1080p display, 3 GB of RAM, a 13MP camera in the back, an 8MP camera up front, either 16 GB or 64 GB of integrated storage, a massive 3080 mAh battery, and support for LTE. All of this is packed into a plastic casing with a metal band around the edge that gives it an iPhone vibe.

The Mi4, with its $320 starting price, is news enough for one day, but it seems Xiaomi wasn’t content with just one major product announcement for today. The company also unveiled a new smartband for monitoring activity and sleep and unlocking your phone. The device, dubbed the Mi Band, apparently lasts 30 days on a single charge (no, that’s not a typo) and will cost just CN¥79 when it goes on sale. That’s less than $14 CAD.

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It’s not clear if Xiaomi plans to launch the Mi4 or the Mi Band in North America, but it does show that OEMs are listening to consumers’ demands for wearable accessories that are priced like accessories.

SourceXiaomi
22 Jul 12:58

Nokia Canada promises new Lumia devices for later this year

by Daniel Bader

Nokia Canada has promised to release new Lumia devices besides the already-announced Lumia 635 this year, reassuring loyal fans that it is still very much involved in the country’s smartphone ecosystem.

Nokia hasn’t released a high-end device in Canada since the Lumia 1020 last summer while big launches like the Lumia 1520, Icon and 930 have come and gone without a peep from the Canadian offices. The company confirmed to its Twitter followers that it would not be releasing the Lumia 1520 at all (though it’s contesting one off), but says others are coming soon.

Windows Phone 8.1 was announced earlier this year, and Nokia plans to bring the update to all of its current WP8 devices, including the 520, 620, 625, 920 and 1020. Carriers had a good track record of releasing the previous major update, Lumia Black, so expect a good turnaround time on Lumia Cyan.

Nokia will likely unveil a bevy of new devices, for both the entry and high-end markets, in the coming months, so the Lumia 930 may also be an intermediary phone before the next big Windows Phone 8.1 product push.

SourceTwitter
24 Jul 13:17

What I Instagrammed Vs. What Was Really Happening, Or My Entire Life Is A Lie

by A Photo Editor

Do you want to know how my pictures I shot before I actually captured a photo that both accurately (and attractively) displayed how happy I was in this moment? 56. I hope you’re judging me, because I am.

via Bustle.

23 Jul 15:48

Bernard Bull | 5 Predictions About Educational Credentialing in 2024

Dr. Bernard Bull, who led the Beyond Letter Grades MOOC, is currently designing a set of graduate courses around badges and writes about credentialing, assessment, and the future of education and learning on his blog, Etale. In a recent blog post, Dr. Bull made 5 predictions about the educational credentialing landscape in 2024 - have a look at them below.

Read the full post here.

**********************************************************************************

1. Unbundled Education – Education will become increasingly unbundled and aggregated across networks and contexts. This will give way to increased grass-roots educational initiatives, the capacity for learners to self-blend learning experiences from multiple sources and organizations, and cross-organizational credentials. Highly regulated sectors and those with strong centralized professional organizations and standards will be most insulated from some of this. It will lead to significant turmoil and disruption in many higher education institutions.

2. Networked Learning will become a fundamental life and work skill. While the most regulated industries will be more insulated, there will be significant conflict between democratizing and authoritarian models of education and training. Regardless, a fundamental aspect of lifelong learning will be the development, maintenance and ongoing expansion of a personal learning network. Related to this, we will see massive formal learning networks within geographic areas, specific fields and professions, and other distinct physical or virtual communities.

3. For many professions and trades, competency-based education and assessment will largely replace assessment of readiness through traditional letter grade systems, GPAs and similar measures. Systems like traditional letter grades will be phased out with the emergence of more accurate and granular measures of learner progress and competence. This will impact both initial training and continuing education.

4. Depending upon the context, alternate and micro-credentialing systems will replace or supplement letter grades, course, credits, and degrees (but the most regulated industries will be more insulated from this disruption). These emerging credentialing systems will have features like expiration dates and detailed information about the criteria met to earn the credential.

5. Educational experiences will provide significant learner control and/or learner-specific adjustments of time, place, pace and learning pathway. As part of this, adaptive learning and robust learning progression designs will replace many industrial or one-size-fits all models of education and training. For better or worse, with the maturity of adaptive learning tools, there will be a renewed and invigorated battle between the  “science of teaching and learning” and the “art of teaching and learning.” Learning analytics and big data will drive the design of high-impact, competency-based individualized learning experiences.

22 Jul 22:02

“Mini” phones aren’t supposed to be a smaller version of the exact same phone

by Rita El Khoury
I get the confusion. Every time a company releases a device under the monicker “mini”, be it the Galaxy S4 Mini, the HTC One Mini (and Mini 2), the LG G2 Mini, and so on, there’s an uproar on the internet about how these devices aren’t exactly mini versions of the same device, and how Sony is the only company really playing the right game with its Z1 Compact. But maybe there’s a good reason for that choice? Continue reading →
23 Jul 17:50

Apple Preps 4K Desktop & 12-inch Retina MacBook

Apple Preps 4K Desktop & 12-inch Retina MacBook:

Mark Gurman, reporting that OS X Yosemite will likely be coming at the end of October, alongside:

Also in the cards for the Mac side, sources say, are at least a couple of next-generation Mac lines. Sources say that Apple is finishing up work on both a smaller MacBook with a high-resolution display and a new desktop computer, either an iMac or a standalone monitor, with a 4K resolution screen.

The new MacBook will include a Retina Display that is approximately 12-inches diagonally and it will include a much thinner and slightly lighter aluminum body, the sources said. Apple believes that this new Retina MacBook will be a significant step forward in the laptop industry, and it is currently unclear if Apple will label this machine as a smaller MacBook Pro, a new MacBook Air, or as an entirely new line.

Yes, my mythical perfect last laptop. And a 4K monitor (maybe iMac?) to boot — answering this question (though the “retina” question remains). Hold on to your butts.

22 Jul 07:03

Twitter Favorites: [skinnylatte] Hi my name is Adrianna and I am a capsaicin junkie. I live to get high on spice.

Adrianna Tan @skinnylatte
Hi my name is Adrianna and I am a capsaicin junkie. I live to get high on spice.
21 Jul 20:18

Twitter Favorites: [danudey] Star Trek: DS9 episodes worth watching: http://t.co/sHnkmTmwMA

Dan Udey @danudey
Star Trek: DS9 episodes worth watching: tessalt.github.io/ds9-episodegui…
23 Jul 06:30

Community Rituals

by Richard Millington

David Spinks has a fun tradition for the CMXSummit.

Everyone jumps up and applauds speakers as they walk on stage. 

It's fun for participants and a buzz for speakers. 

Some communities (especially those we're involved with) ask members to share their biggest mistake.

It breaks down emotional isolation from the community. It typically gets a good response. It's interesting to established regulars. It facilitates bonding. Sharing the biggest success/fear can work just as well. 

Small, exclusive, communities can profile newcomers or invite members to share their thoughts on one particular issue. 

This thread on Reddit documents an array of hilarious, shocking, gross, and unique rituals. 

Every community would benefit from having a ritual newcomers go through. Avoid the shocking and go for something fun and interesting. Try to get members emotionally invested in the community. 

22 Jul 17:43

Lightning 3.3 is Out the Door

by Philipp Kewisch

I am happy to announce that Lightning 3.3, a new major release, is out of the door. Here are a few release highlights:

  • Various components have been made asynchronous, allowing for better perceived performance. This means less hanging when Lightning is busy.
  • Improved invitation processing, as well as a few new features:
    • Restrict sending invitations to newly added attendees
    • Send one invitation email per attendee, not disclosing other attendees
    • Consider default BCC and CC of configured email identity when sending invitations
    • More actions when viewing invitations, e.g. tentative accept, accepting only occurrences.
  • When accessing Google Calendar via CalDAV, the authentication dialog doesn’t constantly reappear.

There have also been a lot of changes in the backend that are not visible to the user. This includes better testing framework support, which will help avoid regressions in the future. A total of 103 bugs have been fixed since Lightning 2.6.

When installing or updating to Thunderbird 31, you should automatically receive the upgrade to Lightning 3.3. If something goes wrong, you can get the new versions here:

Should you be using Seamonkey, you will have to wait for the 2.28 release, which is postponed as per this thread.

If you encounter any major issues, please comment on this blog post. Support issues are handled on support.mozilla.org. Feature requests and bug reports can be made on bugzilla.mozilla.org in the product Calendar. Be sure to search for existing bugs before you file them.

23 Jul 06:47

Some Thoughts On My 8th Raspberry Pi

by mobilesociety

Just about a year ago I bought my first Raspberry Pi out of curiosity and to get my Owncloud server project started. At the time it was an experiment but it turned out to be the most liberating computing experience I had in many years. A large part of this is due to Owncloud that finally let me use cloud services such as calendar, address book synchronization and many other things from home. But it did not stop there, I've since put more Raspberry Pis into service as a water alarm system, to run Selfoss as my RSS server after Google has shut down its service, for daily checks of call by call prices with automatic email reports, for hardware projects to better understand how a CPU works, I'm using one as an OpenVPN gateway at home and another one as a secure VNC remote desktop bridge, another one to stream music to my Hi-Fi equipment, one went to my brother as as a learning kit for his kids and to be used as XBMC media server for his TV, and another one has been put to work as an automatic Wi-Fi and baseband long duration stress tester. The list of things I'd like to do next with it but haven't had the time yet is at least as long. And it's so easy to get started with a new project as the hardware is always the same and the operating system works almost identical to Ubuntu (that I use on my desktops) and most other Linux OS flavours out there. In addition, most of the software available for Linux runs on the Pi as well. So if you are also toying with the thought of getting a Raspi for one project or another I can more than recommend it. But be warned, once you get started there it's difficult to stop. At this point I'd like to say a BIG THANK YOU to all the people at the Raspberry Pi foundation, you've done something really big here!

23 Jul 06:00

Apple and Microsoft – Quiet before the storm

by windsorr

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

Both Apple and Microsoft reported humdrum results ahead of big events.

Apple

  • Apple reported Q314A results that were broadly in line with expectations but guided weakly as the lag effect in front of such a major hardware upgrade is going to be greater than expected.
  • Revenues / EPS were $37.4bn / $1.28 compared to consensus at $36.9bn / $1.23.
  • 35.2m iPhones shipped vs. consensus at 35.5m.
  • 13.3m iPads shipped vs. consensus at 14.3m.
  • 4.4m Macs shipped vs. consensus at 3.9m.
  • Guidance was weak with revenues of $37bn-$40bn expected compared to consensus at $40.8bn.
  • The soft guidance is pointing to a later than expected launch of the iPhone 6 and a greater period in fiscal Q4 when users are holding off from upgrading their devices.
  • All eyes are now fixed on the product launched that are expected in the September / October time frame and very little else is likely to happen before that is out of the way.
  • So much has been built into the launch of the next generation iPhone that there appears to be very little left on the table for investors in the short-term.
  • This combined with my longer term concerns around its lack of Digital Life services (see here) keeps me indifferent to the shares.

Microsoft

  • Microsoft reported Q414A and FY14A in line results that come right before one the most important events in the coming year: MGX FY15.
  • MGX FY15 is a big internal conference and one of the best chances for Nadella to push his vision deeper into the ranks of the company.
  • Revenues / EPS were $23.4bn / $0.66 compared to consensus at $23.2bn / $1.23.
  • Guidance was conservative with Q1FY15E revenues of $21.2bn-$22.3bn expected compared to consensus at $23.1bn.
  • This did not concern the market too much as Microsoft has taken on a habit of guiding conservatively on a quarterly basis.
  • The end-of-life of XP was a driver during the quarter, as Intel results predicted, but the trend started to taper off towards the end leaving tablet PCs with the job of keeping growth going during the first half of FY15E.
  • The strategic vision of becoming a full blown ecosystem was again discussed but with a bit more flesh on the bones.
  • Leaving aside the ongoing difficulties at the Nokia devices and services business, Microsoft saw great progress in the cloud and was even brave to enough to forecast that Bing will break even in FY16E.
  • Microsoft is taking the right path when it comes to differentiating itself by offering both Digital Work and Digital Life in a single device experience but there remains a very long way to go.
  • Services like Lync and Skype or OneDrive and OneDrive for Business may now be in the same teams but the applications remain blissfully ignorant of each other.
  • These and many there services have to be integrated such that they are fully aware of each other if this strategy is to work.
  • This is a herculean task and Nadella needs to really rouse his troops to get them to understand how important it is in order to get it done.
  • This week sees the first step of many Nadella will need to take to lead his company home.
23 Jul 08:25

Not Audiences Again

by russell davies

A little while ago I wrote a post called Activities Not Audiences. As is often the way, one of the fantastic user researchers at GDS has made the same point but more clearly, more precisely and with actual evidence. Damn, they're good.