Monday, March 31, 2008

Web 2.0: Google Docs Goes Offline

We all knew it was coming eventually. Google Docs - powerhouse in the online office space announced today that Google Docs is going to provide offline functionality. Quote and video below.
Official Google Blog: Offline access to Google Docs
As you'll read on the Google Docs blog, starting today and over the coming weeks we're rolling out offline editing access to word processing documents to Google Docs users. You no longer need an Internet connection when inspiration strikes. Whether you're working on an airplane or in a cafe, you can automatically access all your docs on your own computer.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Glimpse of the Future

Here's a quick video interview I did with my nephew David this weekend. After watching Steve Job's announcement of the iPhone SDK, David was excited about the possibility of having 3rd party applications on his iPhone. Unfortunately, these apps won't be available until late June. As you would expect, David - who is about 20 - couldn't wait. He did his research, figured how to back up his iPhone, and found the best method for jailbreaking his iPhone. In this brief (9-1/2 minute) video, we see the future of what we'll be able to do with our mobile devices and what our kids will be doing!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Latency: Fast is better than slow

Some interesting data from the Official Google Mobile Blog. They launched an updated Gmail iPhone interface to coincide with the MacWorld conference in January. As they expected, this resulted in a significant spike in Gmail traffic from the iPhone. Unfortunately, they quickly found out that Fast is better than slow -
Lots of iPhone users tried the new interface (hence the bump in Gmail pageviews between January and February), but they didn't stick around like we hoped they would. Over the course of the next few weeks, we made some tweaks to drastically improve the speed of the product, and Gmail pageviews on the iPhone not only stabilized, but began to rise, as the graph below shows.
The graph shows us daily pageviews in blue, with the latency overlaid in yellow. Latency, according to the open source Wiktionary is "A delay, a period between the initiation of something and the occurrence." For the average end user, the easiest way to understand latency is to consider how long you have to wait from the time you request a webpage until the webpage loads. Clearly the high latency at the end of January was driving users away - working to reduce that wait time (latency) brought users back and kept them.

Google Docs Update

Google Docs just added a really cool feature to their Spreadsheets application - gadgets. The gadgets include a variety of interactive charts. Here are a couple examples embedded below:

An Interactive Pie Chart

A Motion Chart

Notice that you can interact with either and provide some really dynamic and compelling data. I'll have more on this as I play with more of the gadgets. Read more here.

Worth a Thousand Words

I recently subscribed to a flickr group - Stick Figures in Peril. The group encourages anyone to share photos of stick figures that are interesting and/or amusing. It's a very active group, and a fascinating experiment in crowdsourcing.

The figure I've included here is one that immediately caught my attention. Why? Primarily because I recognize it. The impending peril here is a speech or lecture just about to happen. I'll have to post this outside the room next time I give my lecture on the history of bluetooth. Seriously though, what does it say about traditional classroom instruction when we so easily associate a lecture with peril - maybe it's time to re-think how we teach!

Photo from underscore_mouse

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Physics, Phun and the iPhone

The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Engineering &... blog has a story about a free Windows/Linux application Phun. Phun let's kid's create objects, link them together, apply physics and see what happens. Seems like a great way to get kids interested in STEM - Science Technology Engineering and Math. I'd love to see something like this on the iPhone, with the new iPhone SDK. See it in action below!

Read the story at: Engineering &… » Blog Archive » Fun with Physics

Friday, March 07, 2008

iPhone SDK

I just downloaded the new iPhone SDK and wanted to share my first impressions. I did quite a bit of FORTRAN programming many years ago > 10, but haven't done a whole lot lately. The SDK took a long time to download -2 Gig - over my wireless connection. And about 45 minutes to install. I also downloaded a couple of the sample applications Apple provides ~ 1 Meg each. In about 15 minutes - would have been shorter if I knew what I was doing - I was able to open the sample, compile and run on the simulator Apple provides. Here's a video of the app. I have no doubt that this is going to have a huge impact on mobile application development. It's really easy and really cool. If you teach programming - I suggest you download the SDK today, install it in your labs, and have your kids developing and running native iPhone apps by Monday afternoon. Get the SDK here. Even better, download Jing have your students record the simulator running their iPhone apps and embed in your department or faculty webpage - great for marketing! Wish I was 20 again!

Workplace Experiments

Signal vs. Noise is the corporate blog for 37Signals, the company behind the very full-featured online collaboration tool Basecamp. Though they are a relatively small company, they are doing some interesting things to re-shape their workplace. I like this sort of experimental approach. I think it's a particularly enlightened attitude toward workplace management. Unfortunately, because it requires a great deal of trust in your employees - not something I've seen in many managers - it's probably hard to implement at companies with any size. Read more @ Workplace Experiments:
we decided that 2008 was going to be a year of workplace experiments ... make 37signals one of the best places in the world to work, learn, and generally be happy.

Shorter work weeks
Last summer we experimented with 4-day work weeks. People should enjoy the weather in the summer. We found that just about the same amount of work gets done in four days vs. five days.
So recently we’ve instituted a four-day work week as standard. We take Fridays off. We’re around for emergencies, and we still do customer service/support on Fridays, and but other than that work is not required on Fridays. Three-day weekends mean people come back extra refreshed on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people come back happier on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people actually work harder and more efficiently during the four-day work week.

Funding people’s passions
We decided that 37signals would help people pay for their passions, interests, or other curiosities. We want our people to experience new things, discover new hobbies, and generally be interesting people.
If someone wants to take cooking lessons, we’ll help pay for those. If someone wants to take a woodworking class, we’ll help pay for that. Part of the deal is that if 37signals helps you pay, you have to share what you’ve learned with everyone. Not just everyone at 37signals, but everyone who reads our blog. So expect to see some blog posts about these experiences.

Discretionary spending accounts
We’re in the process of giving everyone at 37signals a no-limit credit card. If you want a book or some software or you want to go to a conference, it’s on us. We just ask people to be reasonable with their spending. If there’s a problem, we’ll let the person know. We’d rather trust people to make reasonable spending decisions than assume people will abuse the privilege by default.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

100 Ways to Use Your iPod to Learn and Study

A colleague (thanks Amy) pointed me to this article describing a variety of things students can do with their iPods - besides listen to music. ----
  • Study Guides
  • Podcasts and More
  • Tutorials
  • Applications
  • More Downloads
  • Classroom Help
  • iPod Learning Support
  • Tools and Sites
  • iTunes U
  • Miscellaneous
100 Ways to Use Your iPod to Learn and Study Better:
If you think that iPods are used just for listening to music, you obviously haven’t been keeping up with the latest technology The Apple-developed music player now features all kinds of accessories to help you study better, and now other companies are in a rush to get their designs in sync with the iPod. Pre-teens, college kids and even adults are taking advantage of the educational benefits an iPod affords them. From downloadable podcasts to just-for-iPod study guides and applications, learning on the go has never been easier. To find out about the many different ways you can transform your iPod into a learning device, check out our list below.

Twitter in Plain Englsih

Another great video from CommonCraft - this one explaining Twitter the micro-blogging service. Gordon Snyder and I have become somewhat addicted to Twitter. If you have tried Twitter yet, go register and you can begin by following me at mqaissaunee and Gordon at gsnyder. While you're at it, go to YouTube and subscribe to the CommonCraft channel.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Web 2.0 and Change

Interesting post from David Brooks of the New York Times on the appeal that Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has generated among young people. Brooks describes Obama 's approach to change as a grassroots movement bubbling up from the bottom that compares favorably to the type of change young people have grown accustomed to and have embraced - Facebook, YouTube, and open source software. All powerful, landscaping-changing movements that have been driven by a large decentralized network of users.

Has Web 2.0 empowered kids to think they can make a difference?

Read more at A Defining Moment:
Obama sketched out a different theory of social change than the one Clinton had implied earlier in the evening. Instead of relying on a president who fights for those who feel invisible, Obama, in the climactic passage of his speech, described how change bubbles from the bottom-up: “And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world!”

For people raised on Jane Jacobs, who emphasized how a spontaneous dynamic order could emerge from thousands of individual decisions, this is a persuasive way of seeing the world. For young people who have grown up on Facebook, YouTube, open-source software and an array of decentralized networks, this is a compelling theory of how change happens.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

PI Gives Me a Headache!

Here's two very different ways of representing the irrational number pi. The first [via information aesthetics] is visual and the second [] is auditory - it's tough to call it musical, because it sounds like a cat walking across a piano.
In this figure, each of the 10 possible digits (0-9) of the number pi is displayed as a unique color. Likewise is the audible version, you first select 10 notes (again corresponding to 0-9) and the first 10,000 digits of pi are converted to "musical" notes.


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