Monthly Archives: February 2009

Polyvision Interative Whiteboard Demo – 1/22/2009

I made the trek to Hope Memorial Hall on Thursday, January 22, 2009 to see the Polyvision Whiteboard Demo presented by Rob Leclerc. I arrived at 11:00 and was the first one. In fact, I had to show Rob the room. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Carlson – Media Services AV System PolyVisionWhiteboard.JPGIntergation Manger, entered the room. Rob proceeded to set up his portable eno PolyVision whiteboard and explained that they sell two sizes: 4′x5′ and 4′x8′.

The board is made out of a ceramic steel (environmental ceramicsteel to be more accurate) which can serve as a magnet board, allows for dry-erase markers and can also serve a projector surface. One very cool feature is that the surface has sensors that will allow for screen annotation with a bluetooth stylus that pairs with a USB reciever plugged into the host comptuer. A magnetized strip with different command button, such as line thickness, line color (black, red, green), print, and save can be placed anywhere on the board and tapped with the stylus to enable that specific feature. Thus, a presenter could conceivably project a PowerPoint presentation on the board and with the stylus, use the annotation feature of PPT, select the red line, annotate a slide, save the presentation (with the annotations) and print it out for the audience members.

A future accessory Rob told us about that may be more useful for lectures is a hand-held miniature board (a tablet, if you will) that can be used with a stylus to remotely or synchronously annotate the main board. The one draw back I see with these boards are the size. For smaller classrooms I can see this technology to be very practical (perhaps even replacing he SMART boards), however, for larger lecture halls, especially where projection will be used, it is a very impractical solution. Even if the board could reach the ceiling, annotation at the board would be limited (unless the tablet accessory were used). I am sure the price tag would be pretty exorbitant too.

Dante’s Divine–and now Online–Comedy

For experienced Dante scholars and first-time readers alike, a variety of online resources are available to better understand the poet’s times, work, and legacy: The World of Dante, Danteworlds, the Princeton Dante Project, the Dartmouth Dante Project, and the Digital Dante Project. Except for Danteworlds, all projects contain the full-text of the Comedy, along with other resources.

Danteworlds is the least interactive of these websites, offering short interpretations and analyses of different parts of the poem, offered alongside images, audio recordings of selected lines from the canto, and discussion questions. The website is adapted from a book by Guy P. Raffa, which would explain why this site is not as interactive, open, and diverse as the other Dante repositories. With the diversity of opinions and media available in the other sites, this one should perhaps only be a starting point for beginners.

On the other hand, the similarly titled World of Dante, an elegant online repository of digital Dante paraphernalia, will be the most accessible and interactive resource for those unfamiliar with the time in which Dante lived. There are, again, galleries of later depictions based upon Dante’s work, but there are also maps historical and explanatory maps, full recordings of music Dante uses in his Comedy, and a draggable timeline to put Dante’s life and work in context. The (bilingual) full-text of each canto is paired with a sidebar that lists people, places, creatures, deities, structures, and music mentioned in that canto, allowing for more in-depth explorations of certain important elements of the text. These resources allow the student guidance through the text, but never assert a singular interpretation of the text. Teachers will be able to find many uses for the information stored on this site, and there is even page suggesting how best to use the site for teaching the Comedy. This site does not, however, contain commentaries and secondary sources from the canon of Dante scholars.

The Digital Dante Project offers two translations of the Comedy–Mandelbaum’s and Longfellow’s–which can each be viewed simultaneously alongside the original Italian or alongside the other translation, allowing for translation comparisons. This is the site’s strongest and most unique feature in the pantheon of Dante websites. Also contains Dante’s other writings, selected related classics, and limited scholarly works, as well as images, maps, and links to other Dante and Medieval sites. Some links appear to be broken, and the overall user interface is not as elegant as the World of Dante.

Like Word of Dante, though not as extensively, the Princeton Dante Project (2.0) offers multimedia related to the Comedy, as well as a searchable text of the poem. However, the Princeton Dante Project offers a better integration of the text and the secondary documents, linking individual lines of the poem to audio readings in Italian and English, images from the World of Dante, Robert Hollander’s and Paget Toynbee’s commentaries, and philological notes. Additionally, the sidebar also allows readers to search instantly for information on that particular line in the Dartmouth Dante Project (below). This powerful sidebar, though it takes a while to get used to, allows readers to seemlessly move between a normal reading of the original text and an in-depth review of the wealth of resources available online. Also contains minor works by Dante.

For those who need to close read a particular section of the Comedy, the Dartmouth Dante Project offers over seventy commentaries to turn to. They are accessible only through searches, meaning that only inidivdual segments are visible at once, preventing from a complete reading of the text. Regardless, the searchable database is a powerful research tool for the serious scholar who wants specific information (and who can read the commentaries and texts in the original Italian, English, or Latin).

A less traditional scholastic resource, Dante Today offers a good example of how to integrate technology and classroom discussion, even one about early modern poetry. This blog collects cultural artifacts that are direct allusions to Dante’s Divine Comedy, trying to document the “Nachleben” or afterlife of the poet.

Of the resources reviewed here, the Princeton Dante Project is the most robust and versatile for serious and first-time readers alike, the Dartmouth Dante Project is the best for committed academics, and the World of Dante is the most useful for first-time readers or others looking for Dante-related multimedia.

QuickTime Broadcaster

QuickTime Pro has a very cool add-on application called QuickTime Broadcaster, which allows for on-the-fly encoding. It accepts any video input — including iSight and Firewire — and offers a wide range of compression formats. While Broadcaster is designed to stream files over an Xserve, there is also a handy “Save to Disk” option. This means that we can take a DV source and compress it straight to Thelma’s hard drive without having to do a raw capture at all.

An additional useful feature — Elgato, the maker of the Turbo.264, has added Broadcaster compatibility to the newest version of their software. When choosing compression settings in Broadcaster, it is possible to “outsource” the encode to the Turbo stick, thereby greatly reducing the imposition on Thelma’s CPU.

I did a quick comparison between our old system (DV capture to H.264 compression) and the Broadcaster system, and the outputs are nearly identical. (Disclaimer: I was using a VHS tape, so the quality wasn’t that good to begin with.) The Broadcaster encode did a better job of staying within the bit rate range, and ended up creating a smaller file. The Turbo output generally had better motion estimation than the x264, though this is probably just because x264 is a more CPU-intensive codec. There’s a little side-by-side comparison video posted below, though it may be too small to be useful. The top is raw DV to x264, the bottom left is Broacaster to Turbo264, and the bottom right is Broadcaster to x264.

One of the best uses of this application would be for faculty members who need short clips on a strict deadline. If there’s no need to archive a raw DV file, then this seems like a more space- and time-efficient way to go.

I know very little about streaming video over servers, but it seems like there’s some interesting potential there, too.

QuickTime Broadcaster: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Creating a QT Poster Frame with Anarchy Media Player

For those of you who do not like the default poster frame that Anarchy Media Player uses for quicktime movies, it turns out that its author was smart enough to give it the ability to use an alternative image.

This is how it works.
When you upload a movie, say creating-a-post1.mov, just upload a JPG as well with the exact same filename minus the extension followed by .jpg (eg. creating-a-post1.jpg.)

Then, in the post, just insert a link to the URL to the movie file, and let Anarchy Media Player take care of the rest.

For those who are interested, this Photoshop file can be used as a template for creating a poster frame. (It includes the Quicktime icon and a play button.)

poster_frame_template

The Plugin in action

creating-a-post1.jpg

A Day at the (Innovation) Fair

Last Friday (February 20, 2009) several members from ITG (Yianni, Robin and myself) attended the Graduate Teaching Center Innovation Fair in HGS to represent. Other groups present at the fair included the CMI2, the CLS, and the CLC. After overcoming a few technical difficulties (logging into the tablet PC from Bass, monitors, projectors, uncharged batteries, posters, etc.), I would have to admit we had a successful showing. And hands down, Yianni’s Second Life avatar was by far the hit of the party!

innovation_fair_yianni

innovation_fair_yianni

Although the event was sparsely attended by the public despite the free lunch (most unfortunate), I personally got a chance to speak with a few people, including faculty from the nursing school who attended the TwTT presentation on Skype. I fielded a few questions on the software and gave some more practical ways how Skype can be used, including an example of how David Joselit, Chair of the History of Art department, used Skype during an oral dissertation defense. He was able to “skype” another faculty member, Milette Gaifman, who is on sabbatical this year in England to take part in the defense. David said the software worked very well and Milette was able to participate in the process by asking questions from abroad.

Another visitor to our table was Religious Studies graduate student, David Eastman, who was interested in presenting video in a more efficient manner to his students. I explain how our clip capture service works and how to submit requests. He also mentioned that we was sorry to have missed the “Youtube and Beyond” TwTT session since he was teaching. I informed him that we typically blog about each session and the archive blogs can be found at the CLC home page. Due to our conversation, it became apparent that it would be nice to have a better format on the page for

innovation_fair-clc

innovation_fair-clc

searching or viewing past sessions. I invited Robin to our conversation and we both agreed that some type of navigation tool would be useful. Robin briefly consulted with Barbara Rockenbach (CLC) who informed Robin that she and Ken Panko (ITG) will work on it.

I also had a pleasant visit with Lisa Brandes, director of The Office of Student Life, on digital portfolios. She explained how they provide graduate students with an Interfolio account as a way for them to keep CVs, letters of recommendation, writing samples, transcripts, etc. in a secure, on-line location. This type of virtual portfolio seems to be the future with all the different types of digitization students accumulate and would seem to benefit not only graduate students, but undergrads and faculty, as well.

Please feel free to watch this two minute video from the fair shot on one of our RCA Small Wonder cameras. Enjoy!

innovationfairwithu2.mov

Pam on DAM

Last week (Thursday, February 19, 2009) I was privileged enough to attended the “Extensis and Yale Digital Asset Management Success Story” seminar sponsored by Extensis (a division of Celartem, Inc.) on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA (we’ll forgive Extensis this time). The presentation took place in the main building of Radcliffe College in a room that once served as the gymnasium with its original squeaky wood floors, skyward vaulted ceilings and iron rod suspended running track around the interior perimeter (accessed by a spiral staircase). My esteemed colleague, Pam Patterson, was the keynote speaker giving a synopsis of how Yale (esp. ITG) uses Extensis Portfolio asset management, server and web publishing software. Pam did a fantastic job and I invite everyone to listen to her talk to learn more about how we use the Portfolio software applications: Pam on DAM.

Since I was using my iPhone to record Pam’s address, it may be difficult to hear the handful of questions asked by some the audience members, so I have paraphrased them here with the time stamp of where they are in the recording:

Question 1 (21:40):

Could you tell us about what your teaching collection is like and how the software is related to that?

Question 2 (22:54):

For your initial implementation, how many assets did you process and address in your Portfolio [catalog] and how long did it take?

Question 3.1 (25:16):

Are you cataloging down to the item level? I don’t think that slide [Silk Road] is very recent information. Suppose she take 10 views of the same thing; how do you differentiate those views, or do you? Or do you just give them numbers and say they are all part of the Silk Road?

Question 3.2 (26:06):

So you use a general key word for all of those images that are the same thing?

Question 4 (32:55):

I am curious to know exactly what type of meta data you require or you ask the faculty to convey?

Question 5 (34:24):

My question is about what to do with photographs… and color correction, or do you just dump all the photographs into Portfolio and catalog them?

The rest of the agenda consisted of a talk by our host, Cindy Valladares, on DAM best practices, a round-table discussions on folder structure, organization and asset meta data (taxonomy and folksonomy), lunch and a work flow session presented by one of the Extensis Porfolio techs, Mr. Smith. Basically, a nice sales presentation discretely packaged as a seminar (but that is to be expected).

I was a facilitator for one of the round tables, and all the members of my table (representing MIT, Harvard Law School and Harvard Alumni Association) were already using Portfolio to manage their digital assets. That in mind, there were several questions posed that I thought would have been more appropriately addressed to the entire group either directly after the discussions or at least right after lunch. Instead, after lunch, Cindy did ask all the facilitators to sum up each tables’ organizational and meta data methods (which was fine), but no elaboration on each of the subjects. I think it would have been more useful to have a brief Q&A session before the work flow demonstration. Although questions were taken at the end of the seminar, it seemed to disrupt the flow somewhat. All-in-all, however, the session was good and I did come away with more than what I came with.

Pam gave a similar talk a week earlier as a webinar sponsored by Extensis which can be seen here (along with screen shots of the PowerPoint presentation):

http://www.extensis.com/en/support/webcasts/odyale/Extensis-Yale-DAM-Webcast.mov

Review of Springshare.com

Springshare.com is a webpage that, in its own words, “develops cool web 2.0 applications for libraries and coeducational institutions.” Its most popular feature, LibGuides, provides a database for librarians to share research and analysis on any academic topic and to communicate with patrons not only within their respective institutions but also within the internet community. This research database (located at http://community.libguides.com/) is host to over eight thousand librarians at 510 high school and college libraries worldwide and receives over ten million hits per month. And although any user can browse through the some 27,000 research guides that Springshare.com hosts, an institution must verify their credentials before being allowed to post on LibGuides, lending a significant amount of academic credibility to this burgeoning website.

Users can go about finding pertinent information on LibGuides in a variety of ways. First, they can simply using the search toolbar to enter key words or phrases that might bring up helpful research articles. Second, they can leaf through the most popular articles posted under the various subject headings, although many of these heading are fairly under populated. And third, they can surf through the home pages of libraries or institutions they are familiar with, many of which, such as the “Northwestern University Law Library” and the “Yale University Music Library,” are clearly catered towards a certain type of study. Additionally, the “Recent Guides,” “Popular Guides,” and, in particular, “Guides by Subject” sections are good places to look for helpful information.

A well-written research guide on LibGuides is a great resource. On its main page, such a guide has an interface flooded with category headings and links to click on and is personalized by the librarian who wrote it. A guide, such as “Aboriginal Studies” written by Penny Haggarty of Thompson Rivers University, will include sections with titles such as “Books to Start With,” “Article Databases,” and “Research Tips.” There are also many research guides that are centered on an individual class, such as the “POL 7325 Seminar in Public Policy Issues” from the University of Winnipeg, and that include links and articles relevant to that class. LibGuides gives its members the freedom to do what they will with their research guides in terms of content and design and the result is that one comes across a diversity of information when investigating a particular topic.

Yale University has eight different libraries featured on LibGuides—the Nursing Library, the Public Health Library, the Science Libraries, the Social Science Libraries, the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, the Divinity School Library, the main Library, and the Music Library. From what I saw while browsing Springshare.com, these pages were nowhere near as detailed and informative as those of other Ivy League schools, such as Cornell and Dartmouth. The Public Health Library’s home page, for instance, is nothing more than a blank page, whereas the home page of the main Library, Yale’s largest contributor on LibGuides, has only 22 guides. In contrast, the Cornell University Library has coined 268 research guides.

I would suggest, in the future, that the Yale Library system expands its contributions on LibGuides by creating guides for individual classes, as I mentioned the University of Winnipeg had done. To me, this would be of greatest value to Yale students, as information necessary for a certain course could be compiled all in one place to be accessed by those enrolled in that course. When supervised by a librarian or teacher, such guides could be nothing but helpful and convenient, with bad links or articles weeded out and good ones featured. By compiling so much research in an easy to use interface, Yale could greatly benefit from the LibGuides feature on Springshare.com.

Embedding Video Files in Powerpoint

One of the most interesting features of Microsoft PowerPoint is the ability to insert video clips into one’s slide shows to add another dimension to presentations commonly dominated by text, images, and other interactive features hosted within the software. However, unlike, for instance, the text and images one may add to a PowerPoint presentation, the videos one may include, due to their larger size, are often not permanently embedded into the file being created. Rather, videos are accessed from outside the PowerPoint file via “linking,” the link being either a .mov or other video file stored on the machine or an Internet hyperlink to some webpage that hosts the desired file. Without these links, a video in a slideshow will simply not play, which is why so many people have problems sending PowerPoint files with video to others and playing them on different machines. If the .mov or other video file cannot be found on the new machine, or if the hyperlink is broken or inaccessible, the slideshow will not be as successful as it was on the original computer.

Nonetheless, it is possible to send PowerPoint presentations containing video files to other people and machines without running into these difficulties. It is just not as easy as doing the same with text and images. I spent a half hour or so surfing through some Microsoft Office discussion boards and I found what seem to be three plausible ways to accomplish this;

1. Convert the video file you are using in your slideshow into a Flash .swf file or an animated .gif. Most comments I read suggested using Flash over a .gif file, as Flash is an easier program to use, but both approaches are possible. This is the only way to permanently embed a video file into a PowerPoint document but requires a working knowledge of either of the two video conversion programs.

2. Zip up all the files, video clips, etc. being used in the PowerPoint document, as well as the slideshow file itself, so that they can be extracted into one folder on the recipient machine. This can be accomplished using WinZip self extractor, WinRar (a tutorial can be found here; http://www.pptalchemy.co.uk/mediaenc3.html), or any other extraction software. According to most comments I read, this was much easier than Flash or .gif and resulted in fewer problems.

3. Activate the video file through the custom animation feature of Microsoft PowerPoint. This approach was considered by nearly all users to be the most complicated way to go about accomplishing this task (a step-by step tutorial can be found here; http://msmvps.com/blogs/tohlz/archive/2007/01/20/embedding-video.aspx). In addition, this method does not actually work within PowerPoint but rather opens the default media player to play the video file.

Though I myself have not tested any of these three methods, the quantity of the posts I read on the Microsoft Office discussion boards leads me to believe that they are perfectly effective methods of transporting video files in PowerPoint to be played on other machines.

Review of Digg.com

Digg.com is an extensive news website that allows its online community to post articles from anywhere on the web to its “Upcoming Stories” section and to collectively vote on which articles are worthy of the front page and which articles are not. Upon reading an article, users can vote on whether they “digg” that particular news story by clicking the appropriate button or dislike the story and feel that it needs to be “buried.” The more “diggs” a submission receives from Digg.com members, the further it moves up on the popularity grid, with the most “dugg” stories in a certain period of time holding top spots on the front page.

Articles are categorized under a variety of content headings, with topics ranging from “World & Business” to “Playable Web Games” and “Pets & Animals.” Those topics that a user finds most interesting can be customized to pop up on that user’s homepage, whereas those a user does not care for can be omitted entirely. Each topic heading ranks stories in the same manner as does the front page, with the exception being that only articles tagged under this heading are sorted.

In addition, each article posted features a “comments” page, where a dialogue is created between users as they discuss the content of the highlighted story. This dialogue can expanded by the “friends” section of the web page, where members can not only communicate with one another through the “comments” boards but can also conveniently share favorite articles among groups of people. User profiles can also be edited and personal bios added similar to other social networking sites.

Articles are very easy to post and Digg.com also features a screening program that reduces duplicate or similar stories from being posted. However, as seems to occur with most web pages controlled by members and not solely administrators, Digg.com seems to be comprised of its fair share of misinformation, as literally anything found on the internet can be posted. Also, I found the front pages to be dominated by sensationalist stories that, though intriguing to read, were not particularly informative. At times, it takes a lot of weeding through page after page of articles to find the news you are looking for.

In conclusion, the greatest asset of Digg.com seems to be its news sharing application, which could possibly be adapted by certain classes, particularly those dealing in current events, to gather together documents for research projects.

BuddyPress Overview and Features

BuddyPress is a social networking application that allows users to create and join online communities. The application is made up of separate WordPress MU plugins (which I will outline below), all of which require a Core plugin to operate. Users log on and navigate the networking tools through individualized profiles. The communication features function much like Facebook.com, in that there is messaging, posting, and the communities are made up of “friends.” BuddyPress can be used on both Mac and Windows. If you want to try the application before downloading the components, this can be done at http://testbp.org/.

There are two options for downloading BuddyPress (BP). The first option, a “Combo” download, includes both the Core plugin and all the other components. This option is basically the entire package. Additionally, a user may opt to customize his or her BP tools. To do this, the user needs to first download the Core plugin and then individually install the desired components. Detailed instructions for both installation options can be found at: http://buddypress.org/download/ .

Featured components/tools on a BP profile (if desired, these can be installed in any combination):

Profile:

  • Your homepage, biographical and contact information is stored here. This is also how people will find you through the network. An administrator profile can be set up to construct a network.

Private Messaging:

  • Each profile has an inbox where you can send/receive messages from other users of the site. Also supports HTML formatted messages.

Friends:

  • Users of BP can connect by adding each other as a “friend.” A search tool can help you locate other users.

Groups:

  • Any member can create and manage a group. Groups allow people to share photos, comments, and news updates.

Wire:

  • This is basically a board where users can post comments (similar to a Facebook “wall”). The wire feature can be applied to other components like profile, groups and photos for people to write comments.

Activity Stream:

  • This feature tracks the actions of users throughout all the components. You could use this to monitor the history of a user.

Blogs:

  • Any user can easily create a new blog. Users can have several blogs saved to their profile. There’s also an option for comments to the blog posts.

Status Updates:

  • Allow users to write a short phrase about their status. These appear on the profile and can be constantly changed.

An additional component, Photo Album, is currently under construction. BP says this feature will enable users to create, tag, and share photo albums. Storage space per member can be set by an administrator, and photos will be uploaded from a computer and formatted using WordPress image functions. Also, there is a tool which allows you to receive email updates for activity on any component that you want. This is new technology, so updates (i.e. ability to post photos) should be looked at.

Sam Gamer