Unexpected barcode in the bagging area…

March 8, 2010

A fair few times on this blog I have mentioned QR Codes, even a few times I have mentioned Microsoft Tags.

Both are mobile phone barcodes that store a lot more information than your standard product barcode that you scan at the supermarket.

By encoding information into print, users (or learners) can scan into their mobile phones, information, data, URLs,

So the question you may be asking, which of these two mobile phone barcode systems you should go for?

Well sometimes it is not a matter of comparing the two systems, but asking what device do your learners have and be using.

I have been using an iPhone 3G for nearly a year now and the main issue with using the iPhone and QR Codes is the quality of the camera. Due to the fixed focus it has real issues in acquiring and reading QR Codes. Now the iPhone 3GS has a much better camera and the variable focus does allow it to focus much better on QR Codes and decode them. However I still have issues and both the 3G and 3GS don’t even come close to the scanning ability of the Nokia N95.

Having recently installed the Microsoft Tag Reader on my Google Nexus One and reading the Microsoft Tag Blog I noticed that they said they had an iPhone App.

So out of curiosity I installed and tried it with my iPhone 3G and was surprised to see that it worked very well.

Now I do have issues with some of the privacy issues relating to Microsoft’s implementation of mobile phone barcodes, but if your learners all have iPhones and specifically the lower specified iPhone 3G then using Microsoft Tags may be a real option in getting learners easy access to information and URLs.

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Keynote Remote – iPhone App of the Week

February 9, 2010

Keynote Remote – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will also work on the iPod touch.

This week’s App is Keynote Remote.

Using Wi-Fi, Keynote Remote turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a wireless controller. In landscape view, see the current and next slides. In portrait, see the current slide with your slide notes. Tap to play and swipe to advance, wherever you are in the room.

£0.59

Now this is not the App I think it could be, there are limitations that I will cover later.

What this App allows you to do is to remotely control your Keynote presentation on your Mac from your iPhone over WiFi. So rather than be tied to the podium or the Mac, you can move around the room (or the stage) and even into the audience.

It also allows you to view your slide notes or the next slide. This is useful in a presentation depending on how you present.

I have used it a couple of times for presentations and when rehearsing it worked flawlessly.

The way it works is you create a connection over a wireless network between the iPhone and the Mac. You can then use the App on the iPhone to control the Keynote presentation. It allows you to start the presentation, move between slides (back and forth) and even jump to different slides. You can either view the notes field as you present or the upcoming slide.

So even though I love the concept and when I try it out, there are some things you need to consider.

This only works with OS X and only with Keynote ’09. If you have an earlier version of Keynote it won’t work and if you have PowerPoint for Mac, it won’t work with that. Of course this is OS X, so if you have a Windows PC then this is not an App for you.

You can either view the notes field as you present or the upcoming slide, however you can’t flip between the two as you present, it’s either notes or next slide, not both.

It also only works in WiFi, it doesn’t work on Bluetooth and neither does it work via USB (which though tethered could be useful). WiFi is alright, however it doesn’t always work as expected and does require the presence of a wireless network, that is not always going to be available in every location you need to use this. Even though it worked fine before two recent conference keynotes, due to the use of the WiFi network by others in the conference (ie all the delegates in the hall) I found that the Keynote Remote application couldn’t connect to the Mac over the WiFi and as a result I couldn’t use it!

Not really an App of the Week if it doesn’t work. However I am not sure if this is an actual problem with the App or just a symptom of an overcrowded and overused wireless network at the conference.

So the next time I use it I have either decided to use my own wireless network. Now this creates its own issues. If I also need internet access then using a standalone Airport Express or wireless router will more than likely stop me from doing that. Likewise though you can use Internet Sharing on a Mac to create a wireless network, this is only possible if you have administrative rights over your Mac, something that not every IT department allows. If you do have administrative rights then you can configure your Mac to share its internet connection (even if it doesn’t have one) over the Mac’s Airport to create a WiFi network. If you need internet then if you have a 3G Dongle or USB Stick then this could be used as the internet connection which is shared across the Airport to create a WiFI network and still have internet access. Another option I may use is to use either my MiFi or Joikuspot on my Nokia N95.


TomTom UK & Ireland – iPhone App of the Week

February 2, 2010

TomTom UK & Ireland – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will also work on the iPod touch.

This week’s App is TomTom UK & Ireland.

Cost £49.99

So you need to know where to go?

You need to know how long it will take?

You need to be able to find an alternative route just in case?

Then the TomTom App could be the perfect app for you…

Okay this is one of the most expensive Apps in the iTunes Store and if you already have a TomTom or GPS then you certainly won’t want to buy this. However if you are looking to get a SatNav then getting one for your iPhone is certainly a real possibility.

Now to use this in the car you either need to get a car charger or the TomTom iPhone Car Kit. Now this adds another expense to the cost.

This is not a cheap SatNav, you can get much cheaper standalone SatNav devices from other places. However if you prefer to carry only one device (or not too many devices) then having a SatNav on your iPhone can make a lot of sense. The TomTom App also works as a pedestrian SatNav (ie when walking around).

The iPhone already has the GPS chip, however in order to make best use of the TomTom App then you really need the 3GS model with the digital compass. You can use the TomTom App on the 3G model however when you are in urban areas with lots of turns it doesn’t really work as you would like it to.

So why not just use the Maps App that comes with the iPhone? Well though the App can use the GPS chip, and can be used for directions, it doesn’t have turn by turn directions that the TomTom can. Though the main reason you don’t want to be using the Maps App is that the maps are not held locally and need to be downloaded from a server. This is fine if you have a good fast 3G connection, less so if you are in a rural area. The Maps App also only works properly when you are connected to a phone network. I found that out when I was in New Zealand recently. I had turned on Airplane Mode on the iPhone and was using the wifi and when using the Maps App the iPhone decided that I was in Kobe Airport in Japan, even though I was in Auckland. When I switched the phone mode on, it then found me accurately in Auckland. It should be said of course that the TomTom would not work in New Zealand either as I only have the UK & Ireland version. Though the TomTom New Zealand App is available.

GPS and location services offer many possibilities for learning, though a SatNav App may not be as useful as other Apps which make use of the GPS chip in the iPhone.

The key question about the TomTom is, does it get you to where you need to by the time you need to, then yes it does. Is it value for money, no it’s not the cheapest option and for a lot of people a dedicated SatNav is probably a better option. Does it offer much for learners? No not really.


Top Ten Technologies of 2009

January 4, 2010

Here are my top ten technologies of 2009. Last year I posted my top ten technologies of 2008, this year I am doing it again.

The technologies that were in last year’s list which didn’t make the grade this year were: The PSP, which though is still a fantastic technology, the original format offered nothing new, the new upgraded version did not cut the mustard as far as I was concerned. Also without the long promised keyboard it is still in the main a content consumption device and therefore dropped out of the top ten. The Asus EeePC which dramtically changed the market for computers is now as a format effectively dead. As I write companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are releasing cheap laptops that they are branding as netbooks, however these are for all intents and purposes just cheap laptops with 10.1′ screens and big keyboards. The small linux based micro-laptop format is no longer wanted by consumers and I didn’t really use mine in 2009, so it also dropped out of the top ten. iMovie ’08 was in my top ten in 2008, iMovie ’09 isn’t in my top ten of 2009. It’s not that I didn’t use it, I did, but like the PSP it didn’t offer anything new. Will be interesting to see what iMovie ’10 has to offer. The Edirol RH-09 was in my top ten last year, I still use it, but newer technologies have replaced it in the top ten. Likewise the iPod touch which was fantastic in 2009 has been replaced this year for me by my iPhone. Similarly the 3G USB Stick/Dongle has been replaced by newer technologies such as the MiFi, built in 3G and JoikuSpot.

Anyway onto the top ten technologies of 2009.

10. Nintendo DSi

Released at the end of March, the Nintendo DSi took the best selling Nintendo DS and added extra functionality. From an e-learning perspective the addition of not one but two cameras made the DSi a tool that learners and practitioners could use to capture evidence; or to review a vocational activity. As the DSi can use standard SD cards, this means it is very simple to move files to and from the DSi to the network, VLE or the internet. It’s not perfect, it’s not that easy to put content on the DSi, the lack of a browser coming as standard and the fact that it is a gaming device first and foremost. However it is in my top ten as it had a real impact in Gloucestershire College on teaching and learning.

9. Sanyo CA9

Though there are cheaper video cameras out there, and there are cameras which have better lenses, the Sanyo CA9 is in my top ten technologies due to the fact that a) it uses SD Cards and b) it is waterproof. Cameras with built in Flash memory are great (as you don’t need an SD Card) however SD Cards allow learners to use the camera and the pass it to another learner, whilst holding onto their content (video and images). The fact that the CA9 is waterproof means as well as taking it out in the rain (or swimming) if it gets dirty in a workshop, salon, kitchen, it can be rinsed under a tap. However the waterproofness gives one main disadvantage in that you have to remove the battery to charge it, making it awkward to charge a class set. Despite that one reservation, the Sanyo CA9 is in my top ten of 2009. Video cameras in general can have a real impact on teaching and learning, and we found by putting over a hundred and fifty of them into the college has had a real positive impact and improved retention and achievement.

8. MiFi

So what’s the MiFi? A battery powered 3G wireless router. Using a 3G SIM it would connect to the internet and then allow  up to five wireless clients to connect and share that 3G connection. With a four hour battery life, could be charged via USB and about the size of a credit card. Using a SIM from a Vodafone 3G USB dongle it was  very simple to set up and configure and I would recommend that you use the details from Ross Barkman’s excellent website on connection settings for GPRS/3G to save having to work out where the information is on your providers’ website. You can configure it wirelessly, and the first things I did was rename the wireless network and add WPA2 security. Once configured it is simply a matter of turning it on, waiting for it to connect and then connect your laptop (or other device) to the wireless network. It works very well and felt faster than using the USB dongle! It’s not perfect, it doesn’t really work on the train, but in a fixed location without wifi it does make life easier. You can now get the MiFi from 3 on a contract or as PAYG. This is much “cheaper” than buying the unlocked MiFi, but of course you get less flexibility as a result

7.  Sony HDR-SR10E HDD Camcorder

Last year in my top ten for 2008 I had in two cameras, the Sony HDR-SR8 and the Panasonic HDC-SD5. This year I have as a result of using the Sony HDR-SR8 camera, bought some more cameras for use by staff and in the main used the new Sony HDR-SR10E HDD Camcorder. This is at the high end of the consumer market, though you do get a lot of features. Key ones for me are, a decent lens, full 1080i resolution, a 250GB on board hard drive, and I also had a selection of microphones as well. I used it a lot for taking video this year and very pleased with the end results. Easy to import the video into iMovie ‘09, edit and export.

6. Tricaster

So you need to shoot video? You need to stream video? You need to record video? You need more then one camera? You want graphics, you want presentation slides, you want to screenshare? Though there are a plethora of tools out there for shooting and recording video, screen captures, presentations; most then require you to edit the footage before sharing. One of the things I wanted to do in 2009 was to do all that, but do it live! You can do that using a TV Studio, but it’s not very portable; the Tricaster is!

The process of creating live, network-style television can be very costly and require massive amounts of expensive equipment and a large crew of people. TriCaster™ changes all of that. In one lightweight, portable system (small enough to fit in a backpack), you have all of the tools, including live virtual sets on select models, required to produce, live stream, broadcast, and project your show.

5. JokiuSpot

A simple idea which just works. Basically it turns my Nokia N95 into a wireless hotspot, allowing me to connect multiple wireless devices to my phone’s 3G internet connection. I start JoikuSpot and once started I can then join the wireless and surf the internet. Usually I am using my iPod touch or my MacBook Pro. The Light version only really does internet, it doesn’t allow e-mail or https for example, whereas the Premium version does; this is the reason I upgraded to the Premium version and very pleased I am with it. The main downside is the impact it has on the battery life on the Nokia N95, down to less than four hours, often less!

4. Elgato Turbo.264 HD

Having shot the video, encoding for the iPod or the web can seen to take an age. I have been using and impressed with the Elgato Turbo.264 HD which is a hardware encoder for encoding MP4 files (with the H.264 Codec). It speeds up the process dramtically, encoding is now faster than real time, often twice as fast; and doesn’t tie up the processor allowing you to continue to do other things on your computer. Elgato make some fantastic hardware, the EyeTV is a great device, the Turbo.264 HD allows you to take those recordings and other movie files and convert them easily and fast.

3. Nokia N95

The N95 was my top technology from 2008, it is still here in the top ten for 2009 as it is a device which I still use on a regular basis. The Nokia N95 for me is much more than a phone, it is a device which allows me to create upload and connect. Like the iPod touch I use it on a daily basis, though to be honest rarely as a phone or for SMS. The 5MP camera has an excellent lens and can be used to take some nice photographs. I use Shozu to automatically upload my photographs to Flickr or Facebook over the phone’s 3G connection or if in the right place over wifi. The phone also takes some nice video as well and I can use Shozu to upload that as well automatically. The Nokia N95 does come with a web browser, which is usable, but nowhere near as nice as Safari on the iPod touch. However all is not lost, using JokiuSpot (see above) I can turn the N95 into a wifi hotspot and use the N95’s 3G connection and the iPod touch for browsing, job done. Video works well on the N95 and simple MP4 files work well, though the screen is small, the phone comes with a composite video cable which allows you to show what is on the phone on a video screen or through a projector. I also use the phone to read QR codes which it does quite well. The N95 also has built in GPS and though routing software is extra, for checking where you are using Nokia Maps the phone works great. I also like how Shozu geo-tags the photographs I upload to Flickr too. It’s not all perfect, the device is very chunky and very thick, if you like thin phones, then you won’t like the N95. I am not a great fan of the keypad, but it’s better than some I have used, and to be honest I don’t like phone keypads anyhow!

2. 27″ i7 iMac

Though I have had this computer for just over a month, it is a fantastic piece of kit and as a result is not only in my top ten for 2009, but also my number two technology. This is one mean fast computer. For the first time I can be recording video, encoding video, using the web, CS4 and other stuff without it impacting on my workflow. It replaced a three year old Intel iMac which was (and still is) fantastically fast, but was starting to feel its age when handling multiple processor intensive tasks. With four cores and 8GB of RAM, this new iMac is the business and has made my life a lot less frustrating.

1. iPhone 3GS

Last year my top technology was a phone, the Nokia N95, this year it is also a phone, the iPhone 3GS. Though the iPhone came to the UK in 2007, I did not buy one, as when it came out it did not meet my needs, no tethering, no 3G, no applications. Even the 3G model has some limitations, in the main the poor quality camera, at the time no videe and lack of tethering. The iPod touch did make my top ten last year as that was certainly the device to use if you wanted to use applications. With its Wifi connection and JoikuSpot and the MiFi  I didn’t need the 3G connection that the iPhone provided. However… in March of this year I got an iPhone 3G through work, partly to support my MoLeNET work and partly as everyone was recommending the iPhone to me (and my work Nokia N73 was getting a little long in the tooth). I have to admit that the iPhone 3G was a great device and changed the way I communicated, collaborated and used the web. I started to use SMS as I did like the iPhone keyboard though I know others don’t like it. With the release of the iPhone 3GS and my home phone contract ended, I decided to switch to O2 and get the iPhone 3GS. I got the 32GB model (you can never have enough storage) and was blown away. This was almost the perfect device. With a great camera that shot good (enough) images and video, a great internet experience, the best on any mobile device I have used. However the biggest impact was the applications, the iPhone was starting to become the computer I travel with, communicate with, collaborate with, share with; and that is the main reason why I have put the iPhone 3GS as my top technology of 2009.


iPhone gets it about a bit

October 3, 2009

O2 have had an exclusive deal with Apple over the iPhone in the UK, that is all about to change with the news that both Orange and Vodafone have secured a deal with Apple to provider their customers with the iPhone in the next few months.

This may cause extra competition and bring down the price of both the phone and the tariffs and then again maybe not if the demand for the iPhone remains high.

Making the iPhone available on other mobile phone networks will mean that customers (and therefore learners) will be able to get the iPhone (say as an upgrade) and don’t need to change networks or their number. Yes I know you can move your number, sometimes easy and sometimes not.

Over one million iPhones were sold by O2 and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this figure rise faster with the iPhone on the Orange and Vodafone networks.

With the iPhone going to Vodafone and Orange (and thus T-Mobile eventually) it will be available on most networks.

The iPhone is getting cheaper, with more competition it may get cheaper still.

The iPhone is getting competitors edgy and therefore will start to look at how they can improve their products.

The iPhone will get better, the 3GS is significantly better than the 3G in my opinion (and I have used both).

The iPhone may get bigger (ie the Apple Tablet) we need to be prepared for that. Both Apple and Microsoft appear to be edging into the e-book (and e-journal) market after the success of Amazon’s Kindle.

The iPod touch is not a phone, as a result has huge potential in schools who may be concerned about contract costs, etc…

It will be easier more than ever to get the iPhone.

Will it change learning?

No.

Not on its own.


Apple announce new 3G iPhone

June 10, 2008

Apple announce new 3G iPhone

Apple announced iPhone 3G yesterday in a keynote by Steve Jobs at the WWDC in San Francisco. It will be available in the UK on the 11th July.

New features include:

  • 3G-capable. 2.8 times faster than EDGE.
  • GPS built-in
  • Thinner
  • Better battery life – 300 hours of standby, 2G talk-time 10 hours (as opposed to 5), 5 hours of 3G talk-time (competition is 3 hour 3G talk time), 5 to 6 hours of high-speed browsing, 7 hours of video, 24 hours of audio.
  • Flush headphone jack

Other new features are:

  • contact searching
  • complete iWork document support
  • complete Office document support (now includes PowerPoint)
  • bulk delete and move for Mail
  • save images you receive
  • scientific calculator in landscape mode
  • parental controls
  • language

I wonder if the Keynote (iWork) and PowerPoint support also allows you to show the presentation via an AV cable in the same way you can do at the moment with video and images.

It will be interesting to see also if iWork (or even Office) support includes editing and creating support, or is it just going to be reading, I suspect the latter.

Of course there are also all the features announced when the iPhone SDK was released earlier this year which include:

  • Exchange and ActivSync support
  • Applications
  • VPN

I do like the fact that an educational institution can put apps on the iPhone (or the iPod touch) without needing to go through the Apple checking process and the iTunes App store.

Downside is that you now need to activate the phone in store, so now unlocking just became a lot more expensive as you will have to buy into a phone plan as well as the phone.