Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yearning to Be Free

Maybe it's too much to hope for, but I'd bet most of us who buy digital books--whether from Amazon or Barnes & Noble--would prefer for them to be DRM-free. Bob Sprankle shares his experiences in a recent blog entry, My Book Broke:
As I was reading it, the entire Kindle froze. When I rebooted, the book’s format was toast: there was absolutely no right margin and words were actually missing from the end of sentences (if the font was increased). Now this margin thing might sound trite, but try reading text on a small device without margin space on either side of it. Trust me: it’s very hard to do. I should also say, that no other book on my device was affected. Having done a simple search within Amazon’s Kindle forum, I found that I am not the only one who has experienced this problem… there are many others who also have, and again, only with one book, not an entire library.
Until the technology is improved, we should have the option to let our books be available without DRM. The chances of that happening, though, are slim to none.

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Back to Peppermint OS #Linux #Lubuntu

Notice the Mem usage in the upper left-hand quadrant. That's Peppermint OS (Two) with only
a screenshot tool running. Great!

Having spent so much time on the iPad these past few months, I have to confess that I'm relieved when I login into my Linux. There's a stark simplicity that appeals to me, and that appeal explains why a GNU/Linux OS is my preferred one.

Over the years, after having experimented with a legion of Linux distros, I keep coming back to my two favorites--Peppermint OS and Lubuntu Linux. Both are light-weight distros and easy to setup and manage. Although I'm currently running Peppermint OS, the distro that introduced me to LXDE interface that powers Lubuntu Linux (although that's changing, isn't it?)

When a colleague's computer was infested with spyware/malware, I helped him reload his Windows, and then loaded Lubuntu Linux on the machine (believe it or not, I would have loaded Peppermint OS but I didn't have my regular set of USB flash drives with me that included Peppermint OS and had to go with Lubuntu). Of course, I followed these instructions to get it all working...and they pretty much work on Peppermint OS as well.

I sent him this message:
You are running Lubuntu Linux on your "new" Windows laptop, so I thought you might like a quick overview:

Software Tutorials: 
THE GIMP - compare to Photoshop: 
Inkscape Tutorial - compare to Adobe Illustrator 
Shutter Image Capture Tutorial 
LibreOffice Tutorial (compare to MS prob won't need it, but here's one anyways)
He wrote back:
Ubuntu gets easier all the time and I really really like it!
That kind of enthusiasm is great to see in a new Linux user, isn't it? I suppose having your Windows get infected with malware will do that for you!

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Sharing via Your #iPad Browser Made Easy - Comparison Chart

Image Source:

My number one desired feature in any mobile device app, especially a browser, is a YES to this question--Can I share and/or curate content easily via various social media tools?

If you've used Safari on the iPad, you may have been left feeling a bit underwhelmed. Take a look at the sharing options on Safari:

Hmm...tweet and mail link are the only two options. Kinda unsatisfying, huh? Although one can certainly post to content curation and social media sites via email, who wants to remember them to type them in?

In order of preference, Zite and Flipboard provide more options for sharing. Still, Apple had to hard-code its Safari browser as THE browser for iPad because, to be frank, no one would use it otherwise:

...there is no way to change iOS’s default browser. While you can use any browser you want for your basic browsing needs, you can’t set it as the default browser. That means that home screen bookmarks as well as links in emails, SMS messages, and in other apps will only open in Safari...Most iOS users default to Safari because doing otherwise is too difficult. (Source)
After all, if you're into content curation, sharing content that you stumble across on the iPad may leave you a bit disappointed. No need to bash Safari but consider the options a browser like iCab Mobile browser on  makes available:

Not bad, huh? This pretty much makes iCab Mobile the browser of choice for folks who like to "Share" out to their networks. At least, that's what I thought when I started this blog entry. Read on to find better solutions!

If you're looking for a browser that will empower your sharing--including to content curation sites like Pinterest, Evernote--you'll want to take a long hard-look at Apollo Browser+Add Ons. After doing the comparison, it dethrones iCab Mobile Browser on my iPad as the best sharing tool...and Apollo is no-cost. For Diigo fanatics, you'll probably be satisfied with Diigo Browser (although Diigo prob wants you to buy Readict) which has some nice features.

You'll still need a Flash friendly browser for some web sites--even though Adobe is "ditching Flash" by August 15--and my pick is Puffin browser, although it may be a dead product (or not).

Apollo browser

Top 3 iPad Browsers Available for Free:
  1. Apollo Browser+Addons (without Flash) - Great options for sharing including Evernote, Pinterest, Instapaper, G+, Twitter, Facebook.
  2. Diigo Browser  (without Flash) - offers Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Diigo support in addition to others.
  3. Rover Browser with Flash support
Top 2 iPad Browsers that Cost Money:
What would I get? If you're a heavy Diigo/Tumblr user, go with Diigo Browser and Puffin. If you're an Evernote, Pinterest, Facebook,Twitter user, then go with Apollo Browser+Addons and Puffin

Diigo Browser is a hair's edge from taking top spot as THE free Internet just needs to flesh out the MORE... option on its browser to include content curation tools.

Not a heavy Flash user on iPad? Substitute Puffin with Rover if you would rather not pay for Flash capability.

Comparison Chart - Sharing via Your iPad Browser

SafariChromeiCab Mobile BrowserDiigo BrowserApollo Browser+Add onsDolphin HDSkyfirePuffinRover
Best Features vs PriceNoNoBest for cost browser w/o Flash2nd best freeBest free browser w/o FlashNoNoBest cost with Flash Support2nd best free with Flash
Mail the LinkYesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Flash (FLV) PlaybackNoNoNoNoNoNoYesYesYes
Convert to ePubNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNo
Convert to PDFNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNo

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Rejuvenating the Mind - On Blogging and #iPads

Stats as of Friday, 06/29/2012 at 9:49pm
Did you know my goal is to get 1000 hits a day? It's a fun goal not one I stress over.
a part of me dies every time the blog is 10 short of a 1000. ;-)

When I think back to how long it's been since I wrote a reflective blog entry, I'm shocked. So what if I wrote two earlier this week, I once cranked out reflection pieces in packs of 5-10. It's not that I don't want to write them, but rather, that I'm finding myself mentally weary at day's end. The feeling has been growing over the last year or two, and signals the need to catch up on sleep, and take a long vacation...which I'm planning for next summer.

Still, one of the activities that keeps me engaged and writing is learning something new. If I had to point to singular achievements for this past school year, they would include the following:
  1. Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations: The effect of these books on my work performance cannot be overstated. They simply were transformational and exceedingly helpful, providing the how-to facilitate conversations/confrontations in ways that didn't involve a sucker's choice (e.g. harmony vs results). As I facilitate a book study on Crucial Confrontations, I'm struck by how helpful the book and the audio have been. I listen to the audio for both books--not someone reading the book to me, but rather, the authors illustrating the points--on my way to and from work, or on long trips. While it's cut into my listening to podcasts, I honestly see the principles and skills demonstrated as worth "tuning out" the edtech podcasts I was wont to listen to before.
  2. The iPad: When I bought my 64gig, 3rd gen iPad, I knew I was going against the grain for my own vision of how technology should work. I gambled on the fact that the iPad was going to be a game-changer for me. In a lot of ways, it has done that, resulting in a love-hate conversation that has spawned 20+ blog entries. In fact, any blog entry I write that has "iPad" in the title results in greater number of hits than anything else. Fascinating, huh? Fortunately, I have to learn about iPad for work and learning is always fun for me. Unfortunately, having seen Kevin Honeycutt present, I am perpetually in awe of what *I* can't do with the iPad. For that reason, a Linux netbook seems to be more appropriate for a wordsmith rather than someone who isn't musically inclined or likes to make videos.
As you can see from the Statcounter logs below, the most popular pages are ipad related...that may be simply because that's what I'm featuring, but...
Highlighted items are iPad related

One easy blog entry I wrote yesterday was in response to a question that occurred to me while reading cats-pyjamas blog RSS feed on my phone sometime yesterday. I had only moments to skim, but since I'd just written a quick roundup list of Top 5 Curation Tools I noticed people using, the next day I wondered what would happen if I considered iPad curation tools. After all, I do a lot of my reading on both Android and iPad...what tools are available on those platforms to make curation easier?

Of course, all this navel-gazing about the blog and visitors isn't that big a deal anymore. It's nice to have people reading and finding one's work useful, but after a few years, it's not why I blog. I recently answered a question about blogging, worded something like this (edited to protect the identity of the person):
I am most interested in personal experiences with blogging online. By nature I would call myself a social introvert, however I can be extremely personable (seems like an oxymoron, I know). My main goal is to provide information and resources with respect to . . .I am however a bit apprehensive and extremely cautious of the information I release to the public.  Blogging is a new area for me in terms of providing my expert opinion, other than referred journal publication, so I am a bit timid in pinning my first blog and hitting the publish button.  Any insight on how you think I might proceed would help. 
My response went something like this:
Isn't it funny how social introverts may find expression in social media that is less threatening? I often have reflected that I am much more vocal, active, engaging when writing in my blog than I am in person. In fact, blogging has helped me better align my "inner voice" with my outer one, reconciling the two so that I am one person. I've noticed that when I stop blogging, I tend to build up on one side or the other--inner or outer--and get out of alignment. I blog to find out what I think and feel about something. The journey is well worth the few moments spent. 
The problem of aligning our inner and outer selves is one that others have mentioned. Organizations often have one vision of themselves among staff, "when it's just us," but quite a different projected persona when interacting with the public. This is problematic when blogging. The mis-alignment results in a false, organizational voice that is perceived as bunk. 
You are at the intersection of your field, public academic efforts, who you are as a person and a person interacting with perceptions about ethnicity, culture, education. That area gives you a rich field for pursuing what you are passionate about. Ultimately, a blog is a narrative  of who you are, what you are passionate about, and your efforts. You always have control of who that person you want to be perceived as should appear like...I only encourage you to ensure that whomever you are in public, you also are in private. If you believe your ethnic group membership offers a unique insight into your field, then 1) Declare your biases (as you would in research) and 2) Offer your informed opinion, citing your sources as links. 
The initial obstacle for new bloggers is finding their voice...they often haven't bothered developing it. And, they are afraid of making their writing edgy. What makes bloggers' writing edgy isn't being offensive, or being a risk-taker or unafraid, but rather, sharing what you are learning, feeling as it is happening to you, and being open about that...and, to use a word that was in wide use in blogger circles before politicians redefined it to mean "murky mess," transparent in your thinking. 
Another reflection is how much time you spend. When we write for publication (in the old-fashioned sense of research papers), we want everything to be perfect. In blogging, the goal isn't perfection but the perfect expression of transparent vulnerability. As you write, you may find yourself discovering that a particular program isn't all that you hoped it would be. Resist the temptation to soft-pedal your concerns, and instead, find a way to share them AND maintain the relationship. Be tentative in your expression, as you are a learner feeling her way through a forest of dry twigs. When they snap, allow the thunderclap to be heard, not only by you, but by your readers. 
Authenticity, transparency, your humanity...those will engage no matter what you write about.
Although the themes of authenticity, transparency in blogging are ones I've touched on before, the highlighted section reflects the impact of Crucial Conversations/Confrontations ideas on my outlook. 
As I suspected, I'm less mentally weary at the end of this blog entry. It's a lesson I forgot--blogging helps rejuvenate the brain.

I pray I don't forget it again.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Content Curation on the #iPad


Ok, obviously, I'm getting more interested in content curation. Since I'm using my iPad more and more, it's natural to ask, how does one accomplish content curation? While there are many tools available, here's the current crop of tools to curate and read content. And, yes, I've added them to my must-have iPad apps list already.

    1. Curating:
      1. EverNote (no cost) - This is the best app on the iPad, IMHO, with its note-taking capabilities that include still images, audio and more. I simply love this app. If I find out that upgrading will result in saving EverNote content to my iPad for offline viewing, then I will happily pay for it.
      2. Pinterest (no cost) - "Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard. It lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find in your life."
      3. LiveBinders (no cost) - If you've played with Livebinders, you'll know how it works. This app allows you to view and edit existing LiveBinders. If not, check some Livebinders out!
      4. Pearltrees (no cost) - A nice visual interface that allows you to create trees of content you like, share it, and allow others to contribute/curate with you.
    2. Reading Other's Curation (all no cost)
      1. Zite A phenomenal app enabling you to read content from everywhere. I love that you can drop content into section topics, exposing you to content you didn't know existed about stuff you are interested in!
      2. Flipboard - This incredible app turns RSS feeds into beautiful magazines you can flip through easily. Some other possibilities: Flud
      3. Taptu - More magazine goodness on your iPad, but not based on social media. Some other possibilities in this category include Zinio.
      4. News360 - Access news on your iPad. Other competitors include News.MePulse.
      5. Showyou Video Curation - Shows you video content. Hmm. 
Trying to do some of your curation via the browser on an iPad? You'll want to read this comparison of the best sharing iPad browsers!

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