Friday, December 7, 2012

Using TripBuilder's Phone Apps

Mobile Web version
of the finished app. The
iPhone and Android
versions were gorgeous
in comparison.
Last June I was directed to work with TripBuilder about creating phone apps for our Conference in November. This had been done two years before with not a lot of enthusiasm by attendees but we felt that maybe there would be more people using smartphones this year. New territory for me, but the people at TB were great. They gave us a deadline for having a substantial amount of data flowing into their Web-based content management system (CMS) for handling the various functions for scheduling, listing speakers and attendees, creating surveys, and so forth.

I assume that the phone apps business emerged out of TB's original paper-based scheduling and pocket guides to conference cities service. A module providing a guide to the city of Atlanta was also included in the services extended by the apps: iOS (iPhones), Android, BlackBerry, and Web-based mobiles (including Windows phones and tablets) would be created. My main job was to take the logo for our conference and adapt it to numerous sizes and formats for these four applications. Associates of mine would use Excel templates downloaded from the TB CMS to insert data on sessions, speakers, attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors, as well as text for an About page. We could continue to update the CMS via these templates, however, as we got closer to the event, it was better to insert the data on attendees one by one so as to not overwrite notes that early adopters might be adding to their records.

Opening screen for the TripBuilder CMS.
We used the Section's Facebook page, monthly e-Newsletter, and Website to inform members about the apps and how to download them. To every email we sent out regarding the conference in the last weeks leading up to it, we appended a notice about the apps. By the time Conference started we had close to 200 apps downloaded for the branded phones. I could track adoptions via reports provided by the TB CMS. I also saw there had been 800 views of the mobile-based schedules, though we had no way to translate that into unique users. What really told us the apps were a success, however, was when we had more than 100 downloads during the first day of sessions. It was obvious that people were showing off their apps to friends and the friends were liking what they saw.

Graphics were uploaded and stored for use by the TB programmers. You couldn't vary from their precise size requirements by one measly pixel!

This tells me two things: we had done enough promotion to prime the pump for adoption before the conference and the apps were easy enough to learn that the early adopters wanted to show off to whomever they ran into at Conference. It's obvious that this will play well next year, since by the end of Conference we had close to a 50% adoption rate. That translates to having a sponsor and selling banner ads to run on the apps. More artwork for me to upload to their CMS next year but well worth the effort.

During Conference a decision was made to handle session evaluations online. This turned out to be about 24 on the first day, 33 on the second, and 17 on the final half day. Putting these together using our ABA Qualtrics account took about three-and-a-half hours each for the first two days and two hours for the last one, typing in each speaker's name and session titles. Instituting similar surveys via TB's CMS took me all of a half-hour! That's the power of a database-driven application kicking ass. The former set of surveys had to be emailed en masse to the attendees and they had to go from one session to the next in order to ensure they saw a survey for the sessions they attended. I got some email complaints on that!
Building surveys was a breeze with the TB CMS.
 The phone apps, first of all, allowed attendees to create their personal schedule of sessions they wished to attend. So referring to their MyScehdule, they had already eliminated sessions they hadn't attended and were able to press a button for taking the session survey. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this aspect of the evaulation process next year!

TB is not standing on it's laurels, however. Next year, they will be able to allow our speakers to fill out their own biographies and other data to the TB CMS, which we can download for our own use (print copies, CD files). There will be an app that allows people to fill out forms and actually print out CLE certification documents for attending CLE-approved session. They are coming out with a spin-off application that will use HTML 5 to make the Web-based apps look more like the iOS apps and less like the screenshot elsewhere on this page. This app will be a 365/24/7 social networking tool.

It was great working with the TripBuilder team and I'm looking forward to continuing the relationship.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Google No Longer Avatar Friendly?

I've been struggling in an attempt to recover the Google account for my Oberon Octagon avatar. My Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google + account will also be lost. Six years of productive use, above board board and honest, all lost due to a mistake regarding my birthdate. When I attempted to follow their steps to recover the account, I was denied. I can only conjecture at what I failed to do because no one at Google has seen fit to answer my emails.

Apparently I'm not alone as a blogger I admire greatly is also facing termination of her account. Avatar versus monolithic corporation ... outcome not promising. I've been a very strong evangelist for Google and apps. I'm about to write criticism of their terms of operation using one of their products, which I will continue to recommend.

Payment method not valid? Obviously, it wasn't matching my avatar name. But Google never explained even though I tried to contact them about it.

My personal gmail account is not backed by a credit card for certification of age or any other identification requirement. I find it disappointing that a mistake made in re-entering the birthday for my avatar account caused its closure but was Google going to contact me about my avatar's name not seeming likely to be real? Sometime down this line of reasoning would the profile picture not a be a good enough likeness of a human? (Actually, as you can see in the screenshot below, we're getting close to that actuality.)

What is the problem? Are we taking up too much space on the servers? I am disappointed. It's not like I have paid for the account but I have grown accustomed to having my mail segregated by identity: actual, virtual, business, game. I guess my business model of having a variety of email accounts is faulty.

Google provided a rationale to Botgirl Questi and actually has restored her account. As of October 19, mine is gone. However, I need an account for my avatar. I rerouted all the SL IMs for OO to my personal email account and they add up. I am beginning to find "work" in SL with speaking engagements and may still have something on the horizon that I cannot divulge at this time. So, do I Yahoo!?

What seems to be the problem? What can one little guy do about the great big corporation stepping on him? Open another account! is now in business. Not as elegant as the previous one, but it will do. The biggest determiner here is the CalendarCogs I have in SL that require a Google Calendar. (I also had a problem with Facebook since it's set up using the old, defunct account.)

And within 24 hours, this is what happened:
Our system has determined that the name you provided on your Google+ profile Oberon Octagon may not actually be a name.
It may be that the name you provided is that of a business you represent. Or it may be that this is actually your name and our system made a mistake.
We've got a few options for you:
  • If this is the name of a business, brand, or other organization, please sign in to your Google account and change the profile's name to a representative of the organization. You can then, while logged into this profile, create a Google+ Page for the organization. Pages are designed specifically with the needs of organizations in mind, while profiles are designed for individuals.
  • If this is your name, please sign in and follow the instructions to submit more information and help us fix our mistake.
  • If you want to change the name provided, please sign in and follow the instructions to edit your profile. You can also optionally add Oberon Octagon as a nickname, previous name, or transliterated name in addition to your common name, if appropriate.
If none of the above options are appropriate and you use your Google+ identity on YouTube, you can unlink your Google+ profile from YouTube. This will ensure that regular YouTube access will continue but your Google+ profile will be suspended until you take one of the actions above. If you manage a brand channel, we will soon have a better option for creating a Google-wide identity.
If you don't take one of these steps in the next 4 days, your Google+ profile will be suspended. While suspended, you will not be able to make full use of Google services that require an active profile, such as Google+, Reader, Picasa, and YouTube (if you use your Google+ identity on YouTube). This will not prevent you from using other Google services, like Gmail.
We're sorry for the inconvenience,
The Google+ team.
If I have access to mail and Google Calendar, I really don't give a rat's ass about Google + and YouTube for my avatar.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Spiritfest Presentation

Where to post and how to post?

I've already posted the TED video by Shawn Achor that I used as part of a presentation at mid-time adult ed at First Pres and this weekend in Second Life at the International Spiritfest Weekend on my personal blog. I wasn't paid for my time but it still seems like it was a professional thing: I made a presentation, it took some technical skills, and I took the opportunity to plug my services as an avatar with spiritual director credentials as well as virtual worlds consultant. So here I am writing about it in Die/|\Hard ... if nothing else it's been too long since I've posted something here. I may post the text of my presentation, however, at Great Hot Shave (GHS), my personal blog.

I'm standing near the screen to the right. I brought a chair so my neko-oriented "stand" animations wouldn't be distracting.

At the end of August, I saw a notice posted by the Viriditas Meditation in SL group about the upcoming event. I actually saw that Isabelle Oaklourne was online, so I sent an IM expressing interest in presenting if that was possible and she told me to send a proposal pronto since they were filling up! (See my September 12 GSH post.)  I think I may have gone ahead and provided my blog post on Shawn Achor (see link in first paragraph) and mentioned I would discuss spiritual disciplines in regard to what Achor had to say.

I did this trusting that I could find a way to make the video available. It's much simpler now that one can create media objects and not have to fiddle with group affiliations and parcel ownerships. (You can build an object in SL and assign it a url as its texture, which in effect, allows you to present a Web page that can be scrolled and clicked on onto the surface of the object.) Nonetheless, when the time came to do the presentation, the staff provided the "screen," being a privileged group member* allowed me to drop in the url for my blog, and people still needed either to click on the screen to view it or grab the url to view it offworld, so to speak. I have yet to find a way to open a TED Talk video away from the site save for embedded code. I felt that it would be less distracting to access the video embedded on my blog than the TED site, which has a lot of distracting views of other related videos to the right of their screen. BTW, while it should be possible given you have the ability to click on buttons, you cannot get the full screen mode button to work on a media object (or at least it hasn't worked for me so far).
*I was made an "S F Musician" in the Lunar Lounge group so I could rez items. While I didn't need to rez my video object, I did rez a "slide" from a screen capture of the five practices that Achor recommends to shift one's attitude toward happiness. I listed them in my chat text but the slide covered the screen with the end of the video, blocking any concerted effort one might have made to access and run the video again. Just seemed like a useful thing to do.

The program included musical and dance performances as well as presentations. This was a live performance on piano. The folks in bright teal-colored shirts standing back in middle of the shot were staff, reading to change the stage for my presentation. It was a really smooth transition.

Further preparations included a notecard with my resume on it, basically what you see in my Spiritual Direction CV page here on my D/|\H blog. On another notecard I put the text of my presentation. I wasn't sure whether I would need to give it out, but I figured I would cut and paste it paragraph by paragraph as I read it. This presents a challenge for not having practiced this beforehand! I was using Voice and not certain that it would be translated, but I knew that people can have text translated automatically. So I thought it would be important to send out the text via Chat. This went somewhat smoothly, though at one point I cut text from my notecard and wasn't able to see it right away onscreen in chat. I was able to paste it back into the notecard. Often, though, I would paste into chat and forget to hit return to send it out right away. I also posted the same paragraph I'd posted previously ... on two occasions.

It probably looked smoother to the audience than it felt like for me. That's my story and I'm running with it.

My first paragraph was a disclaimer. I knew that this was an ecumenical event, so I wanted to be sure to acknowledge that I was speaking from a Christian perspective but that the principles of spiritual formation were universally applicable. I posted the paragraph while waiting to be sure folks had finished viewing the video--there was no way to know if we were all in sync in that regard. About halfway through reading it, I got a message from someone saying to the effect, It's cool, you may skip ahead! and I did.

I really hadn't timed myself but just felt there would be time--I had 45 minutes--for discussion. There was time and there was discussion! I felt energized by the experience. I was told by Isa and the person in charge of the Nirvana sim where the fest was held that I would be welcome to present again!

An interesting experience. You do not make eye contact in this kind of presentation. The screen, for one, is cluttered with the notecard text on one side and the chat readout box on the other. To scroll around to see people or even to take pictures would have been taxing my limited ability to multitask. (What I did take, of course, happened while the video played. I also was able to check out a few profiles of people attending.)

I look forward to more opportunities!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Next Phone

With one app after another telling me that they'd work with Win 7.5, which will not install in my Samsung, I guess I'm looking at a different company for the future. I will say that a new app, OverDrive has made me very happy, giving me the ability to download audiobooks from my library, like eMediaLibrary does on my wife's Nook. I am downloading Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and have another title on Hold.

The Windows 8 interface looks great. Not so sure about the curved glass in terms of it scratching but there are screen protectors that work well enough.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Work Tools

I work in a cubicle on the 18th floor of a modern glass-and-steel building in downtown Chicago. I do not like fluorescent lighting and during most of my career was able to avoid it. The lighting here is indirect: rows of fluorescent lights but pointing toward the ceiling, aligned above the walls of the cubes so the light reflecting off the ceiling falls on the occupants. I'm happy.

I have some great tools to play with. I use all three of the major browsers--IE, Firefox, and Chrome--to handle my communications and work. I have Adobe Design Premium, which for me is a bit overkill on the Web editing, since I would prefer to work in code and not use so much overhead that Dreamweaver provides. Particularly when using an older Windows XP-based, Pentium DC desktop computer--it can take a long time to load. Codelobster would be just peachy. I have grown to appreciate the Search/Replace tool that allows handling very long strings and multiple documents, however.

For cropping and resizing pictures, my old standby LView Pro would be wonderful but Microsoft Office Picture Manager is fine, and if I have to save in a particular format, MS Paint is good in a pinch. So Photoshop only opens when I accidentally try to Preview a PNG or BMP file. BTW, at home, as mentioned in a previous article, I have a new laptop and because I couldn't find my registration number for LView Pro, I checked out a new down'n'dirty 64-bit paint program called Paint.Net. Since I know I've got at least two registration numbers on file with the LVP people, I was disappointed in not hearing from them when I asked them about telling me my numbers. Bad customer service doesn't get rewarded. And Paint.Net is very cool. Will write more later.

For the heavy lifting of content management, we use Adobe's CQ5. Next to Sitefinity, which I have mentioned elsewhere, this is a very good program for handling a huge Website. I like the separation of asset files--graphics, multimedia, documents--in their own database that can be shared by the organization. I have only two complaints that just make me shake my head in wonder at the arrogance of large companies like Adobe. CMS programs are not new anymore. I cannot imagine any excuse for allowing either of these limitations (see the screenshots below) to exist when charging a premium fee for the honor to be frustrated by them. Yes, there are work-arounds for them but I want to hear the reasons why these defective features are allowed. So far, I am deafened by the silence!

The file selector for the DAM (document asset module?) doesn't get any wider than this despite plenty of room for doing so. WTF? Can we spell laZy a$$ progrAmMing?

This is the editor for CQ5. As you can see, there's a lot of white space under it. Those seven lines of text is all you get to look at no matter how wide or deep you open that window! Any significant editing requires you to go into HTML mode and copy and paste to your editor of choice, and then paste it back. As a frustration bonus, any time you paste in text, the window pops you to the top line of text and you have to scroll to find where you were working. There's no excuse for this, srsly.

If it had been up to me, I would have gone with an open source CMS like Drupal, which is much more user friendly and feature rich.
We also use Listserv Maestro for handling high-volume html-based emails. Learning to use it has been easy, although it, too, has some questionable quirks. I can understand why they've done templates in such an elaborate fill-in-the-blank way but it doesn't meet my particular needs very well.

One great thing we have here is good support. It's an interesting approach but there's a digital marketing side as well as the IT side, for handling problems or needs like creating short URLs or consulting on best way to handle Web projects. Much more transparent than my last situation.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My New Home Rig

My laptop setup: open on stand, wireless keyboardWhen I lost my job in 2009, I needed a computer to call my own for the times when Jessie was home (three days out of five during typical work week). She had pretty much taken over the downstairs desktop PC, so it was pretty serendipitous that Alex had gone out and purchased a new laptop leaving his old one available. Other than the fact that its internal disk drive was fried and it needed to have its OS restored, it was a potent 17-inch Toshiba on which he had played World of Warcraft and other video-intensive games. More than I needed for job searching, but it ran SL decently. (SL was a much-needed place to escape for me during that period.) You get used to a screen that's been marred by the sands of Bagdad. It was a heavy machine to carry around but the price, even with needed repairs and updates to OS, was still better than shelling out for a new one.
(I had to get an external drive and pay about $150 to get a PC shop to install Windows 7 on the laptop. It's interesting that the installation process asked me to delete the driver for the external drive, which made installation using same drive untenable. I needed a wizard that wasn't running from the disk.)
Frue Frue keyboard by Logitech
Two years later, with the advent of the mesh-enabled viewers and other advancements, I was having a tough time getting SL to run without crashing. A five-year old laptop, alas, is pretty much ancient these days.

I didn't need the laptop for job searching anymore. I had a job. But we've gotten used to having our own computers, so we agreed that I could shop for a new laptop with a limited budget. The old Toshiba would go back to Alex.

Another of the great benefits of working for the ABA is their advantage program with discounts from HP, Toshiba, and Lenovo, the latter of which I hadn't heard of save for the ThinkCentre on my desk at work. I was most interested in video handling and found a great deal on a 15.6-inch Lenovo Ideapad, which had 6GB of RAM and AMD Radeon 6840 video card. I just haven't read anything very positive about game-handling by MS-based video memory handlers, so while it was tempting to look at some high-end Intel chip-based lappies from the other two makers, I went with Lenovo. It's not the equivalent of Alex's nVidia-equipped Toshiba in its prime, but it runs Second Life like a dream.

Lenovo allows you to customize the laptop, which is cool and tempting, with a multitude of warranty plans. Its reasonably priced accidental coverage plan was definitely a factor in choosing it over the other manufacturers' offerings. I saved about $360 with the member discount!

Fellowes computer standI went with 15-inch screen because I knew I'd eventually be using this thing on business trips and wanted to cut down on weight. After a week of it breaking me in, I knew I was going to need to get a stand for the laptop as well as a separate keyboard (see pix). No stand was going to be quite enough to get the screen as eye-level as I wanted it so I grabbed some large books to achieve a better ergonomic solution. The price point on a standard, wired keyboard was such that I could afford the Logitech wireless keyboard. For some reason, the guy at Office Deport didn't think I would like the frue-frue designs adorning the keyboard (see above pic on left) but from the amount of those keyboards they had on hand, I could see why they were on sale. I have no problem with frue-frue, although I do wish I had the USB port back for adding a Bluetooth reader on it but I figure I can switch that out with my external hard drive. I love the keyboard on the laptop when I have it on my lap, but the wireless keyboard mean I'm not reaching over the mousepad, but resting my wrist on my wrist pad. On the above picture on the far right you can see a portion of my old, reliable Logitech Marble Mouse. The built-in laptop pointing device has yet to be built that I would endorse.

Speaking of USB ports, the Fellowes support stand is great in providing me with four more USB ports. Even though I use a 650GB external HD, I like to dedicate flashdrives to my SL and profession-related saves, so I definitely appreciate having the extra ports, with the laptop's four USBs taken up by HD (look for label B lower middle of the photo), mouse, and keyboard, the fourth (A) one is used to add four more (C--follow the blue lanyard to the row of flashdrives on the right). One of which occasionally is home to my smart phone's USB cable.

With a full-fledged version of Windows 7 to match the one downstairs, I can now network our PCs and use the printer downstairs as well as share pix and dox. Like my phone, I gave the computer a name rather than my name, which is being used on my partition of the downstairs PC anyway.  I confess the smaller screen has taken some getting used to but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

And that's why it's called a smart phone

The Calendar app that came with my Windows smart phone is pulling up event dates from my Facebook account. I know that I need to be more pro-active with my use of the calendar. This functionality is great. I may not have put some of these events on my calendar but since it took no effort on my part, I'm quite happy to pick and choose which of these events I'll ignore. It made me realize why it's called a smart phone.

Too bad the humans behind the phones aren't so smart. As mentioned in my previous post about the phone, it doesn't appear to actually run Windows 7.5 even thought both AT&T and Samsung have text stating that it comes loaded with 7.5. Here's my chat with Samsung:

Chat Information Please wait for a Samsung Agent to respond.
Chat Information You are now chatting with 'Simpson'. There will be a brief survey at the end of our chat to share feedback on my performance today.
Chat Information Your Issue ID for this chat is LTK56401088025X
Simpson: Hi, thank you for contacting Samsung Technical Support. How may I help you today?
Visitor: I'm having trouble updating my phone to Windows 7.5. When I use Zune, and update it, it says I don't need an update. It say I have Windows 7.1.
Simpson: I understand that you facing problem in updating your phone. Is that correct?
Visitor: Yes.
Simpson: Thank you for confirming.
Simpson: May I know the model number of your phone ? You can find the model number beneath the phone's battery which generally starts with SGH, SCH or SPH .
Visitor: SGH-i1677
Simpson: Thank you.
Simpson: Would you mind in holding for a few minutes while I check the information for the updates?
Visitor: Go ahead. NP.
Simpson: Thank you.
Simpson: Thank you for holding. I appreciate your time and patience.
Simpson: To check the current version of this phone, follow the following steps:
Simpson: Press ##634# Call - This will open the Diagnostic Application.
Simpson: Press *#1234#
Simpson: Please note the PDA and Phone versions.
Visitor: In process
Simpson: Okay.
Visitor: i677uckj1 for pda and phone
Simpson: Thank you.
Simpson: After completion please uninstall the Diagnosis application.
Simpson: From the home screen touch Arrow key.
Simpson: Touch and Hold Diagnosis.
Simpson: Touch uninstall.
Visitor: couldn't get that to work ... will try again
Simpson: I will be right with you.
Simpson: Sure.
Simpson: I see that the versions you provided is the latest version released for this phone.
Simpson: There are no updates available right now for your phone.
Visitor: So it doesn't run 7.5?
Simpson: I am sorry as of now for your phone it doesn't have.  [Talking to Homer Simpson?]
Visitor: Why? It is described as having Windows 7.5 loaded.
Simpson: I am sorry. I have double checked and there are no updates for your phone.

Let's be clear that I really like this phone! The more I use it, the more I cannot believe I waited so long to work with one. OTOH, maybe an earlier version of WinPhone would not have been such a pleasure. I only took this investigation so far because if I like 7.1 so much and all the buzz is that 7.5 is a step up.

I have a feeling some of the apps I am trying to use require 7.5 and that is disappointing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

More Observations on My Samsung Smartie

What am I learning as I become acquainted with my Samsung Focus Flash (SFF)? I mentioned in my personal blog that people hunched over their phones as they walk to and from the train remind me to keep my head up. I understand now the obsession with the object in their hands! I found myself crossing Wacker Drive checking on the progress of a download and realized this was totally unsafe behavior. I can wait.


I am happy I bought the hard case and screen protector for my phone. The matte look on screen and case is pleasing. Sooner or later I'm going to drop the damn thing, so maybe it will survive! I can remember dropping my Flight into my bike's handlebar bag and the screen rubbed against the mini tire pump. Those scratches on the screen were there for the two-plus years I had the thing.

So, obviously with great power comes more elaborate maintenance duties. The merging of my Facebook and Gmail with my old phone's data has made my "contact list" complicated, although the ability to get a screen of alphabetized tiles to maneuver all my contacts is nice. I can also create groups to make the navigation personalized. All good. The built-in calendar is terrific, a major improvement over the pathetic thing I found on my Samsung Flight. I am not well-organized to begin with, so the better the app, the more likely I am to use it and get myself organized. There may be even better apps out there, but for now, I am quite content.

The tiles concept of the Window phone UI is pretty good. I can scan it with a thumb flick up and down or swipe to the left and bring up a column of smaller icons with a long (and growing) list of apps. I would like to say I used the phone to Google what the best free apps for the Windows Phone are, but I did not. The list makes sense though: Adobe Reader, ESPN Score Center, Facebook, Flixster, IMDb, Shazam, SkyMap Free, Spotify, and YouTube. I really don't want to get loaded up with games but I like Mah Jong and am testing several freebies. I am also testing several radio apps: and Slacker Radio as well as the built-in AT&T Radio, accessing Pandora via the IE app.

Shazam is the app that lets you tag music off of the radio or other sources. SkyMap lets you aim your phone at the sky and get a starmap of what is out there. ESPN can be programed to provide scores and news about my particular sports interests. Between Flixter and IMDb, I should be able to sate my movie interests--the former also knows my favorite theaters so I can quickly check showtimes. While Facebook messages run nicely from a tile on the opening page of the phone, the app puts it into the familiar blue-and-white trim format with photos. The YouTube app enhances immediate access to my favorites and other features if I used them.

Spotify would be perfect but it's $10/mo. and will very likely push my data loading perilously if I am not careful.

Photostudio works in conjunction with the camera for setting up modes of shooting: portrait,  panorama, etc. Then it has an editing mode and a sending mode, letting you preset Facebook and photosharing sites. I believe it came with the phone and looks intriguing. Obviously, the camera is great and has been very easy to send photos to FB and contacts.

I like the idea of starting my day with a spiritual focus. I already subscribe to Richard Rohr's Meditations, so I can check my email and open it to a Web page to read it. It's great being able to pinch the screen to enlarge it to fit. I also downloaded a Mars Hill Church app and can view video sermons and other devotional type material. A Daily Devotions app provides a menu for Christian, This is Today, Our Daily Bread, Worthy Devotion, and Photos. To complete, for now, the spiritual tools, I have a free NIV Bible app. (It is just the New Testament, so does that mean I have to pay for the Old Testament?)

I had bought a few ringtones for the previous phone with the understanding that I'd be able to transfer them to a new phone. I was mislead as far as I can tell since I have not been able to unlock them, nor find any history of purchase on the AT&T account by which to get them redelivered. Therefore, I will buy no more tones from AT&T. I was only able to recover "Layla," which I assign to my older son's number. I really loved hearing U2's "It's a Beautiful Day" when my old phone rang. I don't like being interrupted by the phone but that tone reminded me, yes, it's a beautiful day, behave yourself! I'll get over not having it.

Myxer has done alright in terms of getting free ringtones. Since I named my phone Sgt. Pepper, I have as my general ringtone, the song of the same name. It may or may not be The Beatles, but it's a very good imitation, if not. I have still to find the best ones for family friends but I am in no rush now that I have covered my essentials. I had downloaded an app that claimed to provide Myxer tones as well as others but the interface was not worth the time to learn compared to the ease of Myxer. SkyMusic also has downloads for ringtones, but the "Beautiful Day" clip leads up to the chorus when it really ought to start with it.

I have plugged into my laptop and synced accounts with Zune and Windows Live. The AT&T site says the SFF comes with 7.5 but according to Zune I have 7.1 and cannot update it further. That's too bad but also, being my first smartphone, not worth $300 or whatever the Nokia 900 costs. (Interestingly, I just took a survey from AT&T about my purchase and it segued from my satisfaction with sales and service into questions about the Nokia, asking if I could do it over would I pay $99 for it in trade.) I would be curious to see how the metro IE interface works, but the price point was too high.

While I was at a guitar workshop, I downloaded a nifty metronome app (Klick!) and a guitar tuner app (Accurate Tuner Free). I have a tuner/metronome device in my guitar case but the apps were free and I can imagine scenarios where the phone might be all I have at hand.

It does sound like the least little rationale sends me off to the App store, so I guess the world of smartphones has sucked me in most thoroughly. So far, however, the free stuff looks sufficient to my perceived needs.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Look at the Nook

Last year, my wife Jessie graduated with her masters degree, as well as celebrated her birthday and Mother's Day in the same week. (Obviously, the latter two always coincide on a regular basis.) The boys and I thought this was a very significant occasion. On a cue she'd given me a couple of months earlier, I suggested we pool together and get her an eReader. At the time, the Kindle's tablet and the Nook Color were fairly close in price. Barnes & Noble (B&N) was just on the verge of updating the OS to making the Nook Color a true tablet, so I again ignored the mass popularity aspect of a product (see previous post on smartphones) and bought her the Nook.

For the next few months, we shared oohs and aahhs over the capabilities. Not the least of its features was a free class on how to use it, held in the evening at one of the nearby stores. It works with our U-verse wifi at home, so we can check email with it out on the screen porch. We can download eLibrary books! The availability of such books we like is fairly limited but it was still pretty cool. Jessie's Scottish heritage will not indulge in spending needlessly even if she has a Barnes&Noble money card with which to charge, but I've seen great applications that would make it a very useful tool as well as toy. Here's the latest listing from the B&N Website:
  •     Movies & TV Shows from Netflix
  •     NOOK Comics™ including the largest collection of Marvel graphic novels
  •     World's most advanced VividView™ 7" touchscreen
  •     Over 2.5 million books, magazines, interactive kids' books
  •     Must-have apps like Angry Birds, top music services, & more
  •     Tablet essentials–email & Web w/video
  •     Expandable memory- add up to 32 GB w/ microSD™ card
  •     Always free NOOK support in-store
I will say this: the Nook's Android OS is not very intuitive and had some influence on my decision to test out the Windows Phone. Hmm, what would happen if the Nook came with Windows? Nah! Never happen!

We've both been surprised to see the Nook on TV ads lately, but are pleased that it's being shown off for the good value it is.

And now there's news that Microsoft is investing in the Nook. The financial experts aren't sure it's going to be enough for the Nook to survive in a market that iPads and Kindles are crushing. But here's an interesting wrinkle that MS needs to follow up on: those 641 B&N college bookstores could be reinvented as "education solution centers." The liabilities the financial critics are pointing at in this transaction could be turned into assets. As the article suggests, Microsoft also needs to shop for coursepack companies and companies that know how to package content for the Nook.

It's all a very interesting development. It's a great tablet and I wouldn't count it out just yet.The price point between a Nook and an iPad for a college student is considerable. Put Windows 8 on a Nook and keep that price point ... Ooh, doggies!

Monday, April 30, 2012

My New Smartphone

Jessie's cellphone was beginning to conk out and when she went to the local AT&T store, they said we were beyond our contract period, so we could get new phones. (I understand there's a context here of two completely different perceptions, sales talk and what the average person understands.) Independent of what was going on with her phone, I had been thinking that as a person with "technology" in his job title, it was probably time to jump into the realm of smartphones and acquire some experience. So the timing seemed serendipitous.

Twenty-odd years ago, I was outspoken in my distaste for Microsoft Corporation (MS). I recall writing in ST Informer something about the sheep-like behavior of the crowd adapting Windows. (I would still argue that Atari had a superior computer at that time.) So what in the world am I doing with a Windows phone? Um ...

I have always followed a different drummer in regard to computing ... Atari ST computer, GEM, WordPerfect, Corel Draw, HotDog HTML Editor. I actually did an afternoon's worth of research on the pros and cons of iPhone, Android, and WinPhone. What I found is that MS revamped their phone OS and was getting very good reviews. I was most concerned about that than the accolades the other two phones get for the ginormous collections of apps, which I assume aren't so big when you count the redundancy of apps doing mainly the same thing, and their superior marketshare. Those attributes have never really moved me.

So I went with the underdog! And in this case, Microsoft is the underdog. I also liked the idea that whether I will actually use them, my phone came with Office apps. I would not have to learn new word processing routines even though I really dislike Word. I am good with holding conflicting beliefs simultaneously.

We both bought Samsung phones because a few months ago we bought new chargers. We both liked our Flights and she didn't want to relearn how to use her phone, so she got a Flight  2. I got a Focus Flash and have to relearn using it but at least I don't have to buy another charger. Go figure that my phone cost $0.99 and hers cost $50 (but $0.00 after rebate card is received). Of course, I got a charger with the phone but that's okay ... I need one at work since it really does go through its battery quickly and the charger is also one of those that uncouples from the plug part and can be used as a data cable with my laptop at home or computer at work.

Needless to say, I am having a great time with my new toy and will have more to report as I gain mastery over it's many features.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Innovation at Mayo Clinic

I've been seeing a lot of notices from the Mayo Clinic in Second Life:
Group Notice From: Mayo Clinic Staff, Svea Morane
TBI: The Signature Injury of Modern Warfare and its Impact on Veterans' Lives

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month
Presentation Co-Sponsored by Etopia and Virtual Ability

Presented simultaneously in voice and text.

PRESENTER:  Cindy Tandy (RL)/Eve Maven (SL)
FRIDAY March 30, 4pm SLT
The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability Island

Group Notice From: Mayo Clinic Staff, Svea Morane
As part of Brain Injury Awareness Month, Etopia and Virtual Ability are co-sponsoring "Neurobiology of PTSD".
FRI, March 30, 1pm SLT
Bayview Ampitheater- Ecotopia EcoCommunity

Presentation in voice, with text transcription.
Attached notecard has more information and landmark

Group Notice From: Mayo Clinic Staff, Svea Morane
Traumatic Brain Injury: New understanding - public presentation and Q/A session led by Dr. Allen Brown, physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic.

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Noon  PDT
Mayo Clinic conference center, Mayo Clinic island

Presented simultaneously in Voice and text.

Group Notice From: Mayo Clinic Staff, Svea Morane
Research on Traumatic Brain Injury is changing the way this condition is understood and manged, resulting in better care and improved lives.
Mayo Clinic is offering a 4 day, 16.75 credit hour Continuing Medical Education program March 1-4, 2011. Gastroenterology and Hepatology Update 2012. Registration is required. Details, with course agenda and registration Web site, are in the attached notecard. Course wil be presented at the Mayo Clinic Conference Center in Second Life.
Group Notice From: Mayo Clinic Staff, Svea Morane
Mayo Clinic is offering a 2.5 day, 17 credit Continuing Medical Education program February 16-18, 2012. Mayo Clinic 23rd Symposium on Minimally Invasive Pelvic Surgery: The Leading Edge. Registration is US$275. Details, with course agenda and registration Web site, are in the attached notecard. Course will be presented at the Mayo Clinic Conference Center in Second Life.
There's not alot of whining about the lack of a discount for nonprofit educational status or of negligible customer service from Linden Lab. One of the world's leading medical institutions just goes about its business using a virtual world to reach out to professionals to deliver education and networking. It's not the only way to do it but it has a legitimate functionality that goes beyond the presentational aspects of other forms of so-called virtual interactions. I've written this before:

What happens in Second Life is immersive. You are not an observer, you are a participant. You may be chatting via text or speaking via voice, but more than that, you are doing something together with the other avatars.

When you understand how significant this experience is, and it's obvious that the people at Mayo Clinic and their growing number of medical school partners understand this, then you can realize that virtual conferences in Second Life provide a compelling alternative to the face-to-face experience when someone cannot afford or is otherwise unable to attend the face-to-face version. 

As the use of of SL becomes more sophisticated, the virtual experience may very well become something that cannot be duplicated in actual life. Intersections exist between the actual and virtual where innovations can be discovered. The Medici Effect  (see also The Medici Group) asserts that real innovation occurs at such intersections.
"Through immersive learning experiences designed around the core innovation principles of The Medici Effect, we guide clients to this Intersection. We introduce randomness to inspire new ideas. We encourage the combination of unlikely concepts and help refine them into executable steps. We work with clients to rebalance risk so they can maximize opportunities and execute past failure."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rebooting My Pro Blog

I'm not giving up blogging in spite of having a full-time job and plenty to fill my leisure computing hours. However, any chance that I'll spend that time developing a Drupal-based blog or Website is just plain unrealistic. Despite the DailyRazor's excellent hosting services and reasonable cost, I'm pulling the plug and therefore, my domain is going into retirement until I can figure out what to do with it. I can't really claim Web hosting as an expense for this year, so that's $180 I can reinvest in other ways.

I haven't quite figured out what to do with all these "retired" blogs. I would love to somehow turn the clock back on my laptop, re post an article to its original post date and carry on. What I will do instead, is re post revised articles with their original post dates in the opening text interspersed with new posts. I will leave out some that don't seem relevant. Since this is a professional blog, I will continue to write from that perspective and keep personal journaling to my Great Hot Shaves blog.

I am sticking with the Die/|\Hard branding, however, marking this update as only a change of platform and exploration of Google apps.

Welcome to Die/|\Hard 3.1.

[4-18-2012] I found out I can turn back the clock--these new-fangled blogs!--so I've reposted them with appropriate dates.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Contemplating New Virtual Areas of Interest

I've kicked the whole ALA and Second Life business around long enough. It made me look back over my two years of posting about SL. I like what I've posted. I even fixed the link for the API story in my "I feel so much better!" article. [And then it broke again ... note to self, don't link to API stories.] While I will continue to keep in touch with my virtual librarian friends, I am making other acquaintances in SL in another area that is of great interest, although I hesitate quite strongly to say on a professional basis.

Spiritual direction is something I've been involved with for going on seven years. I am affiliated with Christos Center for Spiritual Formation and have been a facilitator in the Chicago area Tending the Holy program that trains people to be spiritual directors. I am on the Minnesota-based organization's board of directors. (Yes, I attend via Skype and have referenced this experience obliquely in a previous post.) SD is an avocation for me. When I write about it here in Die/|\Hard, I will be discussing the professional aspects rather than the spiritual aspects.

About six months ago, I was inworld, fidgeting in my Linden Home with some newly acquired furniture, when out of boredom I ran a search on spiritual direction and came up with a number of serious-looking hits. A lot of meditation is going on in SL! One of the groups caught my eye as I looked over the Viriditas Center for Contemplative Prayer Website.  I visited their inworld site and was very pleasantly surprised when I attempted to meditate: it worked! I think because I am connected well with my avatar that I was able to relax and in a way be one with my avatar to achieve a stillness conducive to contemplative prayer.

After five years of exploring SL, it's still nice to be surprised.

Over the past few months, I've become acquainted with some of the regulars at the V Center and even attended one of the regular art gallery showings, listening to live musical performances. I even bought a painting! It took way too long for this foggy mind of mine to realize I had something to offer the center in its present winter mode: I could create a cross-country ski track. I've found X-C skiing to be meditative in first life and the only real drawback to doing it in SL is that the exercise is over in a minute or two, unless I created a very long looping trail.

"Automatic Cross Country System is a Scripted Automatic Poseball System that takes the avatars using it on a Programmed Cross Country Skiing path, which you create using an easy to use Waypoint Maker HUD." I'd done this for the snowy portion of ALA Island a couple of years ago. It's one of those very clever inventions that an SL resident developed that animates your avatar in the motions of swinging arms holding poles and legs wearing skis and guides them along a track via invisible waypoints. I can add code to speed up and slow down depending on whether the skier is going up or down a slope in the terrain. Putting it together required that I be given certain permissions to rez items on the sim and I honor the trust that went with that privilege.

Over the years, I have acquired a number of clever gadgets, some of which I never got to use at ALA Island. I have offered my copy of our labyrinth to V Center, although it may be too prim heavy for them to consider it. I also have a emPod, which may be an interesting meditation tool: a sphere in which the interior is paneled with video screens. We shall see. But it's good to be expanding my area of contacts beyond the library professionals.

BTW, the sim returned everything today in order to begin their Viriditas Spring. But the message I received was promising: "thank you so much for this idea. Next year we can start it right at the beginning of the season." Obviously, there is no issue that tier is too high to sway this nonprofit to leave SL.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reflections on the Closing of ALA Island

Reposted | 01/15/2012

An acquaintance of mine told me about attending a presentation at Mayo Clinic's Second Life auditorium last Saturday (January 7) about a survey being conducted by a pair of Florida grad students. They are studying the relationship of first and second lives, looking for long-time residents of SL who are working professionally in virtual worlds. They have a list of kiosks facilitating the survey and I was pleasantly surprised to see one at the San Jose State University LIS sim. I was at that sim when it opened several years ago. Graduate students from their LIS program helped create ALA Island.

ALA Island in 2010 for "The Future Is Now" Conference.

When my friend asked the presenters if they had contacted any librarians in SL for help in their research, they were not aware of the prevalence of so many potential responders to their survey. This seems to be the lot of librarians, actual or virtual, that they are often an afterthought in research rather than a primary contact point. I shouldn't make too much of it, being an isolated incident. But in pondering the closing of ALA Island, I cannot help but wonder what really happened?

ALA Island Remembered

But first, let's remember some of the good times. I remember meeting with Galen Noltenius from the Washington Office on the roof of the first ALA building. Each office had a floor and egress by flight was over a tricksy balcony. The whole relationship thing struck home for me when I met Galen's operator at a DC Annual Conference. When he was struck and killed by a drunk driver several months later, it really impacted many of us in SL.

The theme for our first Banned Books Week had something to do with pirates and that was the first makeover for ALA's presence in a virtual world. I remember dancing and fireworks. Arrr! and a dandy pirate ship floating in the bay!

Then there was the design and building of ALA Island, with help from SJSU LIS students and Jeremy Kabumpo, a director at the grad school. I'd been to Epcot Center the previous winter and thought that it would be cool to use that as our blueprint, with a lake in the middle but over which we could have platforms for facilities. I didn't want to have buildings where doors were difficult maneuvering and why bother with ceilings when people could fly? The design team did a wonderful job. Librarians welcomed the presence of ALA to the InfoIsland Archipelago, which at the height of its development boasted 55 sims.

Loriene Roy, President of ALA, in her avatar form, presided over the National Library Week 2008 kickoff event. Pretty amazing.

We celebrated National Library Week in the spring and BBW in the fall, with attempts to provide support during Midwinter and Annual Conference for those who couldn't make it. We provided training for staff and had a lot of people sign up. One fellow who worked for ACRL, a division of ALA with many active members working in SL, took the whole thing as a joke. Training was during lunch hour, so it was voluntary, which set the tone for the way a lot of staff looked at SL.

And so it was always just a few of us who worked along with the dozens of librarians who are still working hard to show their institutions what kind of impact virtual librarianship can have. Take a look at the current calendar for the Community Virtual Library (CVL) and tell me this isn't amazing for a volunteer group. I saw last month that they even had an exhibit at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Faire, a terrific outreach to the larger SL community, which is a significant move toward integrating with residents. I am still humbled by these wonderful people long after I became no longer paid to care.

Young Adult author Cynthia Leitich Smith (aka Cynthia Zanzibar) gave a 2008 presentation about writing for the young adult market on the main stage. SL facilitates writers' workshops, connecting them in concrete ways across the continents.

In the fall of 2010, we reached out and had the avatars of well-known writers (Michael Stackpole, to name one) in the SL BBW Read-Off. A contest produced great videos that celebrated banned books. The following spring we facilitated "The Future Is Now" seminar that raised revenue and proved that SL activities could pay for themselves. (I felt that the registration fees were too low, which takes that ROI business even further.) But that was pretty much all she wrote. I think activity on the Island died down because the librarian members of ALA have their own places they need to support and since nobody on ALA staff besides Kay Tairov was working in SL, the Island went from being a symbol of ALA's presence to one illustrating the lack of ALA's staff's presence.

Last summer I went over the island and retrieved all of my gadgets that generated data on visits and teleported people from place to place. It was the beginning of the end, even though it was discussed as a remodeling effort. For more pictures and memories, I created a set of pages, A Pictorial History of ALA Island.

Oh, What a Shame!

If you read through the sampling of articles about the closing (see below), you can see admiration for the virtual librarian community but not enough outrage, IMHO. Many of these virtual librarians are not strongly supported by their own institutions, so it's all the more disheartening to see signs of ALA's diminished support. It's perhaps too early to know if the money that had been earmarked for paying tier is being used to help pay tier for the other virtual library sims or some other way of supporting work in SL. I am not privy to the decisions being made.

Metaverse Journal
I Live in Science Land (Be sure to read through on the comments since the post itself is divided into two topics.)

But here's what I wonder about most: for close to four years, the community of virtual librarians have been courted by ALA membership to organize and become an entity there. Becoming an entity would, among many benefits, have pressed someone on staff, besides Kay Tairov (who works in Membership), to work in SL. That could have made a difference. It still could but I am not hopeful.

I tried to talk to the ad hoc director of conference services at ALA, who is also a vice president of a company that handles exhibits for associations. The concept of virtual exhibitions may be on the bleeding edge but after an initial "your timing is right" reply from him in the fall of 2010, he soon was too busy to see me and then even too busy to reply to followup emails. ALA has a lot of members who just cannot afford to attend conferences but with a little training could attend them virtually via Second Life. The infrastructure is well-established. The cost would have been minimal and the CVL has proven over and over that they can justify ROI. This doesn't take away from the revenue generated by attendance of actual conferences but has the potential of building a desire to meet the virtual acquaintances met in SL at a future conference. Why is there such resistance to this?

There's an argument in the I live in Science Land blog about ownership of virtual properties and that using Opensim would be a better way for nonprofits to explore virtual worlds. I think they miss the point, that being the investment of money in SL isn't in the virtual objects or real estate but the relationships those objects facilitate. Please don't get me started on the economical aspects of paying tier or dedicating staff hours in SL when paper is still used to deliver information to members of ALA. The cost of producing one antiquated and useless newsletter would more than pay for a sim, and more to the point, be more efficient use of precious staff time.

ALA resisted the Web, too, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. There's a much larger issue at stake here.
Virtual membership in associations is ephemeral and easy to ignore by overworked staff. What the CVL has accomplished is exactly what is needed to wake up not only ALA but many monetarily-strapped membership associations to the value of virtuals. As the premier representative body of information experts, ALA should be leading the way and not be dragged, kicking and screaming, on this cutting edge of the information highway.

But don't take my word for it, read this excellent analysis on the future of virtual worlds in Hypergridbusiness.