Friday, December 28, 2007

Creating better mp3 is music to your ears

A small article in Wired magazine (November 2007) caught my eye. It was about ripping better mp3 files. Ever since the creation of Napster and portable music devices....the mp3 file format has become the choice for many around the world. The good thing is that mp3 compression allows for smaller music files - but the problem with this is that we have become used to listening to (as the music purists would put it) - "crap." We have sacrificed sound quality for small file sizes.

The Wired article states "the audio geeks behind LAME (the decoder) continually fine-tune their compression algorithms so cymbals don't crunch like garbage-can lids, and screaming guitars don't sound like squeaking Fisher-Prince toys."
(Image Reference)

The article suggests 2 mp3 applications to try (they are free of course):

  1. Mac users: iLas
  2. PC users: Exact Audio Copy
If you are using Audacity (a free audio recording and editing application that most schools now use....for Mac, PC & Linux.) Be sure to download and install the lame.dll file. This will enable you to export your audio files as .mp3 files with a great compression. This is important if you are using Audacity to record Language or English assessments.

One of many possible links (if Googled) you can download the lame.dll file (download)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A website that helps you create everything from badges to a motivational poster

There are thousands of free websites available on the Internet that will do free easy tasks for you - no matter where you might be located. Any computer.....any where. All you need is an Internet connection and access (in the case of this website) to some of your personal images.

BigHuge Labs
lives up to the name by having a huge amount of free web based applications to have a play with. You can use images from your computer, Flickr, Photobucket or URL (from a website).

I will attempt to list some of them:

  • Create your own motivational poster (great for the classroom)
  • Create a custom name badge
  • Develop your own personalized letter to Santa (good for next year)
  • Create a magazine cover
  • Make a mosaic from your fav set of photos
  • Create monthly calendars with your own photos
  • Design your own trading cards
  • Add comic book style captions to your photos
  • Warholizer: "Andy Warhol" an image
  • Choose from a variety of frames to put around an image
  • Turn any photo into a desktop or cell phone wallpaper
  • Cube: create a cube you can print out with 6 of your fav photos
  • etc.....
You get the picture (pardon the pun), there is unlimited things you can be creative with.

What a great site to have some fun with all those great photos you have taken over the holidays!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Technology has given biologists the opportunity to discover new life.

E.O. Wilson (a professor and honorary curator in entomology at Harvard University) presented at TED in March 2007 which is quite an inspiring and fascinating talk for any age group. A video that should definitely be shown in every biology class. He encourages everyone to get to know more about the insects and small creatures, to learn more about our biosphere.

There are over 500 bacteria (now known) that are friendly living in your throat and mouth alone. Biodiversity is a yardstick with which to measure the health of planet Earth. Much of early biology consisted of identifying and classifying creatures. As the world famous Ecologist E.O Wilson says, “Everything is connected”. It is these interactions and the totality of life, which give rise to the term biodiversity. Biological diversity can be defined as the variety of living creatures, including their ecological roles and their genetic diversity. Biodiversity is in short the “creation” in its mind-boggling entirety.

HIPPO is an acronym that Wilson uses to describe the threats to biosphere:

  • H - habitat destruction
  • I - introduced species (introduced invaders by humans often kill out native species)
  • P - pollution
  • P - population (Wherever humans step - they gobble up resources)
  • O - overconsumption (North Americans - 5 % of the world population but consumes 25% of world resources)
E.O. Wilson wishes that all can work together to help create the key tools needed to inspire preservation of earth's biodiversity - it is called the Encyclopedia of Life. A website that has a page for each species on earth that makes this information available for everyone on the earth. Could scientists and the everyday person can come together (almost in a wiki format) to develop the Encyclopedia?

School Chat....
How can your school or class be involved in your corner of the world? Contact the folks at Encyclopedia of Life to see how your program can contribute.....the smallest of discoveries can be found by the youngest scientists!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas to All

Holiday wishes from a Kiwi Christmas. I hope everyone has a healthy and happy holiday.

Kia Ora

Friday, December 21, 2007

Will Nano Technology extend the lives of our beloved technology?

Over dinner tonight the discussion turned to batteries. Yes, I know what you are thinking....not the most exciting dinner conversation, but it actually got into quite a conversation.

We were actually talking about Pleo (see yesterday's posting) and I was telling everyone that it has about a 1 hour battery life and starts to get sleepy when the battery starts to run down.

Two of us at the dinner table love gadgets....I mean we absolutely love new techi gadgets and that , unfortunately, involves charging and batteries. Whenever I pack I have cables and battery chargers and extra external chargers to charge all my gear in case batteries die. Now I have found some clever little travel tools that will reduce the amount of cables you need to carry as you can just "switch the plug ends." I was given as a gift an Electronics USB Cell phone/PDA/iPOD/Charger Kit by Tumi and it is great! It really reduces the amount of cables you have to carry and when traveling overseas you only need the one adapter as it switches to all international power plugs.

I also never leave home without my Tunejuice by Griffin Technology. It is a great little battery extender for any of the iPods (except the little shuffle). Just pop in 4 AAA batteries and if your iPod starts to die you just plug it into the bottom of the iPod. Griffin Technology reports that "TuneJuice will provide up to 14 hours of additional audio play, or 2 more hours of video viewing." I can't verify the length of time as my Tunejuice has not run down yet while in use. I think the longest I have used it is 5 continuous hours and it was still going strong.

So my point is, as much as we love our technology and gadgets we do have a charging/battery issue. I just read an article from ScienceDaily that reports this problem may be solved very shortly. A report that researchers from Stanford University have "found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices." (read further)

Research into this technology has been going on for sometime, but it seems the team at Stanford has cut through and solved any of the previous problems. These new batteries "produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours."

Exciting stuff! No reports yet when consumers might see this available on the market, but you can bet it might be around the corner.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Animatronic Dinosaur named Pleo, learns to engage and interact with its owners.

What is the latest fad this Christmas? A Pleo!

Pleo is the latest creation of UGOBE, a privately-held company from California that specializes in the development of robotics that "transforms inanimate objects into lifelike creatures."

What is Pleo?
Pleo, a one-week-old robotic dinosaur that interacts with its owner by moving organically, expressing emotion and autonomously exploring and responding to the world around him. Software shipped with Pleo allows for subtle shaping of personality and temperament. Future free software updates will allow Pleo to develop a unique personality based largely upon how he's raised. Plus, owners can go to to connect with other owners, find training tips and download new enhancements to Pleo. Pleo has a sophisticated sensory system has devices that enable it to hear, to see, to sense touch, and to detect objects.

The battery charge apparently lasts for about 1 hour and then Pleo starts to get sleepy. It even makes little cooing noises.

Check out one of the many videos (below) about Pleo on YouTube

What are the "guts" of this new interactive robotic marvel?

Significant Processing Power:
  • 32-bit microprocessors: central and image processing
  • 8-bit sub-processors: motor control
Highly Articulated Movement:
  • 14 motors
  • Over 100 custom-designed gears
Complex Sensory Network:
  • Camera-based vision system: light detection and navigation
  • Microphones: binaural hearing
  • Skin sensors: head, chin, shoulders, back, feet
  • Foot switches: surface detection
  • Force-feedback sensors: one per joint
  • Orientation tilt sensor: body position
  • Infrared mouth sensor: object detection
Multiple Data Ports:
  • Mini USB port for online downloads
  • SD card slot for Pleo add-ons
  • Infrared transceiver for Pleo-to-Pleo communication
High-Quality Sound:
  • 2 speakers located in Pleo's mouth and back
L6 Power Source:
  • Rechargeable and replaceable NiMH battery pack
  • Recharges in 4 hours; provides approximately 1 hour of operation
Selling in the USA for about 348.00 US...for ages 8 to really old!

There are plans to release a PDK (Pleo Development Kit) - "to make hacking Pleo easier."

An amazing interactive toy that engages with its users. I remember the days we got excited over a pet rock.....times have changed :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Navigating the waters to find out information on various USA universities can be tricky

College Navigator is a great website that brings together all of the USA universities and colleges to help people choose a school that they may want to go to.

Picking up on the "personalized" aspect we usually see in social networking sites, this website allows the users to personalize their search. With things such as building a list of favorites for side-by-side comparisons; interactive maps that will pinpoint school locations; exporting your results onto a spreadsheet; saving your sessions to go back to for further investigation.

The site is sponsored by National Center for Education Statistics offers over information on approximately 7,000 postsecondary institutions in the USA. There is a wide range of resources available on this website to help a student narrow down a choice for a postsecondary institution from finances to housing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Latest Public Beta Links from Adobe Labs

Wondering what to do over the Christmas or Summer (yeah Southern Hemisphere) Holidays?

Why not try some of the latest public betas hosted on the Adobe Labs website.

Brio - next generation of Acrobat Connect

Flex 3 public beta 3 available on Labs

Adobe AIR beta 3

BlazeDS beta

Adobe AIR update for Flash CS3 Professional beta 3

Adobe AIR Extension for Adobe Dreamweaver beta 3

Monday, December 17, 2007

Social Networking continues to be the "hook" for many new online web services

Social networking....that seems to be the "hook" for many of the new web services that are popping up on the Internet.

eSnips is a social content-sharing site where a user can publish and share any media type. Users have up to 5 GB of free space.

eSnips allows the user to create a folder structure where each folder can have permissions assigned to it....who has access to the folder and who doesn't. "eSnips is for anyone who has anything they want to share with others - like home movies they want to share with family members or a hobby they want to share with others with the same interests. eSnips creates a community around your passions by making it easy to find others and for others to find you."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mobile networks are quick, fast and efficient in Japan

You are now able to book your airplane ticket through your mobile phone in Japan. It takes about 2 minutes and once you have booked your flight through your mobile phone, you are sent a "barcode" to your mobile phone. When you get to the airport you place your phone over a reader that will talk to you to 2D mobile barcode. It immediately prints you a ticket and off you go to your plane.

Quick, fast and efficient!

"The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade body that represents 240 airlines and 94% of scheduled international travel, has reached an agreement on a global standard for mobile barcodes, which it says "paves the way" for air travelers to use mobile phones for check-in at airports." (review .pdf)

In July, Air Canada started testing the 2D mobile barcode with select passengers out of Montreal.

"Passengers involved in the pilot test first check in without baggage on This generates a 2D barcode – in fact an e-boarding pass – which is sent directly to their mobile device. They then use this e-boarding pass to cross screening check points and to board the aircraft. 2D barcodes can be found on all Web itinerary receipts and on the paper boarding passes issued by an agent, at a kiosk or through Web check-in. "

School Chat.....

The mobile phone is evolving at a very quick rate. I was watching an interview on the news with a famous Japanese clothing designer that has now turned to "mobile design." He said that in Japan the mobile phone has seasons just like the fashion industry. The Asian market demands that a mobile phone changes every 3 months. In most countries the mobile phone is only used for talking.....but in Japan, the end-user demands that the mobile does so much more from booking airline tickets to booking restaurant reservations. The services that are demanded from the end-user are growing rapidly and quickly.

How many schools in most countries still ban the mobile phone instead of embracing the technology?

Friday, December 07, 2007

You can run but you can't hide from technology.....

I was watching the morning news and perked up with a story that was reported earlier this week. A man in the UK showed up at a police station saying....I understand that I have been missing as I have amnesia and don't remember where I have been. This man was missing from a kayaking trip for over 5 years. He had left behind a wife and children. Finding a paddle, canoe and other items, he was declared dead after one year. His wife received insurance money and what looked like, to everyone including her children, started to move on with her life. This is where the story takes a wee turn....

Stories around the Internet report that shortly after the insurance money was received, the wife bought property and furniture in Panama. When the story first hit the airways....reporters questioned why hasn't anyone come to "the surface" that may have known this man over the last 5 years? Where has he been?

So as one does, people hit the Internet to search for the name of the wife and husband, Panama, etc.... Beware of your digital footprint - didn't a picture surface that had been taken of the man and his wife in Panama....wait, wasn't he supposed to be dead and she the grieving widow?

When the true story was revealed this week, close friends and their children were furious. How could their mother have them believe all these years that their father was dead?

Wife guilty? Husband guilty? I am sure more will surface over the next couple of days. Then next year by this time we will see a prime time movie will be made about it......but in the meantime......

Classroom Chat....
I used to have discussions with my students about digital footprints....when you put things in "digital" format, it can come back to haunt you. You never know where someone may be taking a picture and posting it to the web. Almost every mobile phone has a camera built in it. You never know who can get access into your social network and retrieve information or post information on you. I we are just coming to terms in understanding impact of our own digital footprints.

Further Reading:
Dereks Blog: Online Safety
School Video that Mocked Student with Disabilities Posted on YouTube
Teenage girl posting dangerous photos online (NZ Herald)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Synthetic Worlds - New Scientific Guinea Pig

Virtual Parallels collide at the Synthetic Worlds Institute at the University of Indiana.

Arden was developed by
Professor Edward Castronova and colleagues to explore the economic changes that can occur in a synthetic world and real world and how one impacts the other. Arden "gives social scientists an entire populated world on which to perform experiments - something always lacking in the real world." (

The Shakespeare era has been created to engage with online players to create a social laboratory without the users realizing it. Social scientists will start tweaking within Arden and see how the synthetic community within Arden will respond.

Takes the white lab rat to a whole new level.

Classroom chats.....
Will synthetic worlds take over social research? Is it a reflection of directions that societies will take...evolve to? Will social scientists be able to predict and be able to stop potentially harmful events from happening? Time will tell.....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

User Interface for Personal Discovery

Sometimes a person needs to chat about things for no other purpose than they are cool or fun.

Musicovery is both that....a little web application that has been designed to connect your tastes in a visual manner.

User Interface (UI) is something that has always been important to digital designers, but I believe it is something that is going to be VERY IMPORTANT for the 21st century. A visual UI that focuses on inclusion across gender, cultural and age boundaries is one that will be successful.

Is the UI for musicovery the UI of the future? What will the UI for future-proofing look like?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Splashup is a free (beta) "web-based" graphic editing program. You don't need to sign-up to start using the program right away. You can either load an image from your computer or from a URL, Picasa, flikr, facebook, splashup or an image captured from a webcam and edited directly in Splashup.

Splashup has a photo sharing service built into it. With a variety of tools, like many of well known photo editing software applications, such as filters, editing multiple images, layers and blend modes, layer effects, brushes, etc...

I did have some difficulty with some of my image manipulation upon trial. When I tried to erase part of an image it kept moving and replicating itself. I also tried to manipulate layer names and it kept defaulting back to the standard name.

Over all, for a free beta quick and easy image editing program accessible on any computer - anywhere - it has potential.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Web 1.0 - Web 2.0 - are you ready for Web 3.0?

Some people laugh when you say Web 3.0 or semantic web....they don't believe there will be a "Web 3.0" but rather something completely different.

The folks at Project10X will argue that Web 3.0 is the next wave and it is starting now!

Project10X is a "research consultancy specializing in next wave semantic technologies and solutions. The firm’s clients include technology manufacturers, global 2000 corporations, and government agencies."

A quote from a report just released by Project10X looks at the 4 stages of Internet growth....

"The semantic wave embraces four stages of Internet growth.

  1. The first stage, Web 1.0, was about connecting information and getting on the net.
  2. Web 2.0 is about connecting people — putting the “I” in user interface, and the “we” into Webs of social participation.
  3. The next stage, Web 3.0, is starting now. It is about representing meanings, connecting knowledge, and putting these to work in ways that make our experience of Internet more relevant, useful, and enjoyable.
  4. Web 4.0 will come later.
It is about connecting intelligences in a ubiquitous Web where both people and things reason and communicate together."

The executive summary of this 400+ page report is free to download
[ .pdf ]

This report looks at emerging technologies and explores the market readiness.
Project10X also "projects that public and private sector R&D relating to semantic technologies in the 2008-2010 period will exceed $8 billion and that global ICT markets for semantic technology infused products and services will grow from $2.1 B in 2006 to $52.4 B in 2010."

If this evolves as predicted, it means a lot of new/spin-off companies will be formed around this growth and development. One just has to scour the web now to see all of the new websites/companies that have been born during the Web 2.0 era.

School Chat....
This means that schools need to "wrap their head around" what impact all this will have on their students and their programs. What information and skills will need to get to the students in order for them to be "future-proofed".....ready to take on the semantic entrepreneurial spirit.