Monthly Archives: May 2007

Wiki Farming

An upcoming workshop requires a wiki for pre-workshop preparation. Since we don’t have a functional campus wiki engine we decided to use a free wiki service. These sites are referred to as Wiki Farms and there are a mind boggling variety of options that separate the major players. I chose Wiki Spaces for a start. They don’t use the same engine (MediaWiki) that is used by Wikipedia, but the Wiki Spaces engine is actually a bit easier. There is no need to learn a markup language since there is a toolbar with common tasks built in. Next I’ll see how collaboration works…I’ve invited other workshop facilitators to join in. I can already predict that we will have a little trouble organizing the information but hopefully we can resolve that problem swiftly and efficiently.

think you are too connected?

The interactive web has been featured on NPR in the form of Twitter. Twitter is a blog-based service with no potential revenue stream. It allows everyone to post what they are doing at any given moment. The attraction? It is easy to post a tiny blurb via IM or phone. I get the feeling that people are tired of reading digest-sized voluminous blogs. Twitter is more stream of consciousness and more apt to be adapted in ways like Twittervision. I personally like Flickrvision better as a timewaster, but Twitter itself allows you to set up friend groups to narrow your focus.

Another “connected” site is Hype Machine. Hype Machine is a blog aggregator that focuses entirely on music blogs. This way you can find out what is hot just as it is warming up. Many of these blogs link to MP3s, and then Hype Machine caches them. That way you can stream a flash version of songs directly from Hype servers and click a link to buy via iTunes, eMusic, or Amazon. Alternately you could use the Hype Machine to link out to various blogs and do your own reading and listening. I fail to see how any band today could remain “underground” for more than a day or so. Today’s hipsters can be into new trends before the bands even get together!

Some of my friends express dismay at the two-way web. One fellow said that he feels increasingly insignificant in the face of this very big interactive world. Is anyone out there still expecting privacy or anonymity?

Website Usability

Professor Michael Twidale from the University of Illinois came to talk with us this week. Professor Twidale is a very insightful and personable character with a unique perspective on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). In the case of Illinois Wesleyan, we are interested in improving the usability of our website. We’ve spent considerable time and money converting our campus web pages into a content management system, and now we’d like to evaluate them to be sure that people are able to find and understand the information we present.

Continue reading Website Usability

my recipe for an easy podcast

I’ve been saying for a long time now that the real power of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and social networking is not in the technology. The technology itself is rather trivial. The power comes in the user-centric nature of their interfaces.  In other words, blogs make it really, really easy for a non-techie person to create a website with current, vibrant content.  Podcasting is a little more complicated since it is basically a blog with some added audio bits.  However I get it done in a short amount of time using only free software. So in the service of user-centricity I’ll describe my methods for my weekly comic-book discussion podcast that I post here.   Continue reading my recipe for an easy podcast

Videomaker DVD guides

The ultra-useful YouTube video toolbox guides I mentioned a couple days ago turn out to have come from a partnership with Videomaker magazine. It also turns out that some “essential guide” DVDs that we have at IT were made by the same people. I watched the DVDs today and was quite pleased. We have two 30 minute discs, one devoted to sound and one for lighting. They are concise and simple, and actually emphasize ways to make sound and lighting happen on a shoestring budget. In fact, I was so pleased that I went to their website and signed up for a free trial issue!

Battery recycling!

This post is directed to Illinois Wesleyan faculty, staff, and students:

I’m volunteering to recycle your batteries, old and broken iPods, and old and broken cell phones. I’m not doing anything special with the stuff, just delivering it to the right people to properly dispose of it. Bring the items to the IT House sometime during May Term and I’ll take care of it!

Windows Vista: Upgrade or Clean install?

When our copies of Vista arrived on campus I was anxious to try it out. My Lenovo desktop machine has plenty of RAM which made it the perfect candidate. Furthermore, all my work is in support of other people who do work in various departments – the world won’t stop if I back up my documents every once in a while to reformat my system. My big problem at this stage was that I didn’t want to wait around to reformat. I decided to see how smooth the XP – Vista upgrade path was.

The system worked fine after the upgrade. There were some annoying nag windows on boot-up which got old after a while but didn’t stop me from doing work. My TPM security chip didn’t function after the upgrade. I also noticed that a lot of hard drive space was taken up for no good reason.

 Today I decided to try a clean install. I had planned on doing to Complete PC Backup (see my blog posts about that debacle) but instead manually cleaned up and backed up all documents and e-mail. I found that about 80GB of storage is now available which had been used in the upgrade configuration. Another small problem was the slow response of Internet Explorer in opening a new tab. Tabs are great, but not if you could open a new window in less time! Tabs are nice and snappy right now.

My advice to anyone wanting to test Vista is to use the Clean install option. You will probably have to boot to the CD and select an Advanced Drive options button in order to format or manipulate partitions, but it is worth it.

Next phase: downloading Lenovo apps to see if I can use the TPM chip!