Saturday, 23 July 2011

Introducing OS X Lion

Written for South African Apple Mac users interested in installing Apple's new operating system, OS X Lion.

I attended an introduction to OS X Lion by Ross Hamber at Digicape Claremont. He made the following points:

Before installing, check your Apple Mac meets these requirements (an Intel processor, 2 GB of memory with Snow Leopard). You should also check that all the applications you want to use are compatible with Lion; www.roaringapps.com lists them plus individual user experiences. Lion users will benefit from having a multi-task trackpad; while the magic mouse can be used, it won't give all the gestures you can use (i.e. swipes with three or four fingers). Also, for safety be sure to do a back-up before starting the installation...


Lion costs $29.99 and its installation is handled via the Mac App store. Select "buy OS X Lion" on http://www.apple.com/za/macosx, use your existing Apple ID to login; then make payment. To avoid a 24 hour wait for the 4GB download on standard Telkom ADSL, pause it and complete the installation at Digicape. Simply bring the receipt and they install it for you (and should you need multiple installations, Apple gives you a maximum of four licenses per purchase). After rebooting, you'll have the new OS :) !

Ross then showed OS X Lion's introduction presentation. He was excited that "Lion is a whole new cat" and marks major visual changes from the previous operating systems, since Panther and Snow Leopard's were mostly in the background. Lion includes 250 new features and Ross focused on those most users were likely to find useful:
  • Lessons learnt from the iPad and iPhone's use of multi touch gestures show in users now being able to use 3 and 4 fingers to control Launchpad and Mission ControlMission control gives a bird's eye view of activites and switching between them. While similar to spaces, one can move apps, etc. around far more easily (for example, between spaces such as different desktops) . It's a great way to flip between content without requiring two monitors! Launchpad is a hotline to one's applications folder, which now looks very similar to the iPhone and iPad's. Using a three finger swipe, Mac users can now arrange applications in an easier way (grouping applications in a Creativity folder, for example).
  • Full Screen Apps have been built into iPhoto, Safari, iCal, Mail, Photo Booth, et al. allowing users to select a full screen view via a new icon at the top right of the app. Full-screen mode also hides elements; such as the file menu. It is particularly useful on notebook screens (such as the new Mac Air's) and helps if one is moving between multiple accounts.
  • App Store has become the place to download software and new applications should install in just one step.
  • Resume allows one to setup applications in particular screen regions and reopen them there.
  • As its name suggests, Auto Save allows one to save automatically, and creates versions. Versions uses an interface similar to Time Machine; allowing one to refer to earlier file versions. It works with most apps; one must just double-check its available in the software one uses. At the moment it is only included in Apple software, but other developers should eventually the versions feature in their new releases for the Mac.
  • Air drop allows you to share files easily, without worrying about network settings.
  • Mail now includes a three-column widescreen view and allows users to easily view a thread as a conversation. It can easily show a thread 50 messages long, for example. iCal has now also been integrated into Mail.
  • MobileMe has been discontinued and is being replaced by iCloud, which will be supported in South Africa from September, for free.
  • In an advance on previous operating systems, Lion also installs a hidden recovery partition to one's hard- drive from which you can boot should your system encounter problems. Recovery mode creates a hidden partition for rebooting your system from "another" OS, versus a disk. To ease the boredom, one can now use Safari to surf the Web while doing this... Hopefully, I won't be doing any experimentation with this feature, though :).
Ross' presentation was most useful and I can't wait to get going with my new Lion, ROAR!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Research Talks this September

I  look forward to doing two talks in September; the first at an Elearning update, the second at the Design Development and Research (DDR) Conference, both in Cape Town. The talks will be based on a paper I submitted; "The Multimodal Choices Visual Arts Students Made In Creating Their Online Portfolios". 

Its research abstract is: "There is a research gap in the multimodal choices that Secondary School Visual Arts students make when using online portfolio software. My research contributes to closing this gap by exploring the modes and modal combinations that three students used in their varied online portfolios. These students were chosen following a multimodal analysis of the year-end screengrabs from an entire grade ten class’ online portfolios. 

The educator’s syllabus instructed all students to create showcase Visual Arts electronic learning portfolios (e-portfolios). Despite following the same syllabus and using the same online portfolio software, there was great variety in students’ modal choices. These have been illustrated by showing how the divergent interests of three students were reflected in choices that had different resonances with professional, school and teenage practices; as well as with online social networking practices. 

I argued that the students had created a “Visual Arts Showcase Drawing E-portfolio”, a “Visual Arts Showcase Mixed Media E-portfolio” and a “Teen Media Interest Showcase”, respectively. The paper’s findings suggest that educators and other decision makers should accommodate a variety of student interests when designing e-portfolio syllabi. As a result, it is recommended that these syllabi include a broad and flexible range of guidelines. These should accommodate students in choosing the particular mediums, subject-matters or themes that their personal interests favor."

I will also be on the DDR panel for; "Designs for Learning: South African Youth’s use of Online Portfolios, Micro-Blogging and ... Computer Games" with fellow researchers from the Digimob SA research group.

Thanks to Professor Johannes Cronje, Marian Pike and the other organisers at Cape Peninsula University of Technology's Department of Informatics and Design for opportunities share my research.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

August Social Bookmarking Workshop for Visual Arts and Design Educators


Written for Capetonian Visual Arts and Design educators interested in learning how to "social bookmark".

I will be teaching Secondary School Visual Arts and Design educators to use Diigo (a social bookmarking tool) in mid-August. The two hour, computer lab-based workshop aims to stick to this format:

1. Introduction on teaching with Diigo (and how a Visual Arts Head Of Department (HoD) is using it with Carbonmade) (15 minutes).
2. A brief introduction to my research and the importance of educators developing an "insider" mindset (15 minutes).
3. Educators to install Diigo on their browsers, followed by a discussion of the issues that emerged in doing this on multiple browsers types and versions in a one-laptop-per-learner class (10 minutes).
5. Educators "follow" the Visual Arts HoD and I (5 minutes).
6. Educators  search for, and join, "Groups" that may be beneficial and set their group's email settings, et al. (15 minutes).
7. Discuss setting up a Group (i.e. class of "2013") and joining a WCED one (10 minutes).
8. Educators bookmark a few art museum websites and share them to a "Group" and one of their contacts. (5 minutes).
9. Creating and sharing a "list" (5 minutes).
10. Using other Web2.0 media for Visual Arts and Design education: Facebook, colourlovers (5 minutes).
11. Open forum for hands-on experimentation and questions (20 minutes).

If you teach at high school and would like to attend, kindly RSVP with John Cowan (Senior Education Specialist in the Visual Arts, Department of Education).

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Buying from the iTunes US Store in South Africa

Written for South African iTunes users wanting to buy their favourite music online.

Having exhausted the wait for music to be sold via iTunes South Africa's store, whilst  bemoaning the absence of great variety in local online equivalents, I decided to follow MP3SA's instructions on setting up my "US" account.

Despite initial reservations at potential technical aggravations, the process was surprisingly hassle-free. Once done, I used MP3SA and MediaWob to purchase iTunes vouchers. Both rely on PayPal to settle voucher payments; so register with it in advance (or check your credit card details are current). MP3SA's delivery was slower: MediaWob emails a voucher number straight away, but MP3SA first authorizes an online account before you get a voucher number (this can take up to 48 hours). Since both sites' voucher denominations may vary in availability, it's useful to check both before purchasing.

Redeeming the vouchers in the iTunes US Store was simple. However, buying, downloading and navigating the store at the same time could be an unreliable (and irritating) experience. Given my laptop's temperamental network card, Telkom's dodgy traffic shaping and other potential networking issues between SA and the US, this was not suprising. However, I will think twice before downloading a double-album for two hours...

That said, the variety on the US store is superb and I look forward to using it for music I can't find on local equivalents;  travisnoakes, rock on :) !

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