Monthly Archive for October, 2008

“Leveling Up” Students with Class Blogs: Engineering Active Learning through Game Mechanics

COM125 Award Winners

Back in Spring 2007, when my colleague Derek Lackaff and I conducted the “COM125: Intro to the Internet” class simultaneously in Singapore and Buffalo, New York, we decided to do something completely different…

We ran a social learning experiment of the “funnest” proportion (watch video).

Given the positive feedback from students on both sides, we’ve finally taken the time to publish our story in the Fall 2008 edition of the UBlearns Update newsletter [PDF / 500kb]

UBearns Update Newsletter (Fall 2008)

This particular issue has a social media + pedagogy theme to it, as it also features Jenn Austin’s Transforming Learning: The Power of Blogs, Journals & Wikis – Web 2.0; a great article filled with rubrics and tips on how to incorporate these social media tools into your classroom.

Our article was originally meant for journal submission, but we adapted it for the Blackboard user audience, in time for the launch of Blogs (Journal LX) and Wikis (Teams LX) inside UBlearns. If you’re looking at the actual newsletter, our article is listed under a less threatening title of “Incorporating Blogs and Wikis Into Teaching”. You can read the full article after the jump…

Continue reading ‘“Leveling Up” Students with Class Blogs: Engineering Active Learning through Game Mechanics’

theorycast.48 :: Rise of the Netbooks

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Netbooks have amazingly dominated Amazon’s laptop sales charts for the past month.

Small, lightweight and relatively cheap… just what are netbooks truly about, why are they so popular and what does it mean for the future of computers?

In theorycast episode #48, we dive right into the world of netbooks, with fellow netbook hackers Preetam Rai (on his Acer Aspire One) and Ben Koe (on his ASUS Eee 901). I’ll be introducing my “mac-ified” MSI Wind.

After watching, tell us what your ideal netbook would be.

Update 1: Ben Koe shares his experience switching from Windows XP to Ubuntu on this Asus Eee.

Update 2: Tricia Wang got herself the Levono S10 and is exploring the cultural adaptation of netbooks as a lifestyle accessory. Perhaps she’s following the footsteps of Nokia’s user anthropologist Jan Chipchase.

Update 3: Two years ago, I showed how I got Mac OSX running on an 10.6″ Sony Vaio TR3A. Why weren’t 10″ or smaller notebooks back then as popular? I guess the high price point back then was a deal-breaker, compared to the cost of netbooks today.

RjDj: Like illicit drug, but technologically legal…


Got a sweet mp3 player, but tired of listening to someone else’s music?

The tools for music creation has become more accessible thanks to affordable applications such as Garageband, but they still tend to be relatively complex to learn. In comes another mode of music production… the one that pre-packages auditory possibilities, and lets you unleash it in your own haphazard, serendipitous way. Throw in the portability, multi-sensory and processing power of the iPhone, and the gates of creativity becomes unleashed.

Earlier this month, Brian Eno released a generative music album for the iPhone known as Bloom. Just this week, Gunter Geiger, a technologist and advocate of free software, released the equally spectacular, RjDj.

So what the heck is RjDj?
Continue reading ‘RjDj: Like illicit drug, but technologically legal…’

Apple’s 24″ LCD is “almost dockable” with MacBook Pro

Apple's 24" LCD is "dockable" with MacBook Pro

The new Apple lineup, including the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro, might be showstoppers, but the simplest yet impressive innovation I’ve seen comes the new Apple 24″ LCD screen.

Apparently Apple’s 24″ LCD has a symbiotic relationship with the MBP. It’s turns the MBP into a “desktop” setup just by joining three cables from the LCD, namely the Mini DisplayPort, USB, and MagSafe power cable.

While there’s no real interlocking between hardware, this “dockable” feature is nevertheless a real timesaver for dual screen users like me. I actually bought an additional power adapter that’s a permanent desk fixture, just so that I don’t have to dig and crawl around with one everytime I switch from mobile to desktop mode.

You can read about this feature at the bottom of the MacBook Pro “Graphics” page.

Making silky smooth videos with the affordable Hague Mini Motion Cam

Hague Mini-Motion Cam

Earlier yesterday, I asked friends to guess a new contraption via a broken up photoone guy tweeted right: It’s a kind of steadicam.

What’s a steadicam?
You can read how it works in this great guide, but in essence, it’s a a camera rig which lets you achieve smooth tracking videos with minimal vibrations. If balanced right, it’ll feel as if the camera were floating independently of the camera-person.

I first learned about the Hague Mini Motion Cam (MMC) from a Canon HV20/30 forum, complete with pricing and test videos to boot.

While decent handheld steadicams go from $800 up, there are lots of cheaper alternatives, including building your own for $14. Factoring in the effort, cost and performance, I found the Hague option to be in my sweet spot. Shipped in just 2 days from the UK, this contraption does wonders for budding videographers at a small price (about US $100).

The only thing you have to realize is that finding the right balance of weights isn’t easy, but once you figure out the ideal camera and weight distribution, you’ll be a step closer to professional videography heaven.

Here are my first test videos with the Hague MMC…
Continue reading ‘Making silky smooth videos with the affordable Hague Mini Motion Cam’

Panoramic shooting with PanoLab

UB panorama shot
Click image to enlarge

Okay so it’s not the best looking panorama you’ve seen, but if you notice carefully, to take this shot I had to be “floating” just outside the 8th floor of the Natural Sciences Building on UB North Campus.

Wanna try? If you have an iPhone, you have to get the free PanoLab app (iTunes link).

First, note that what the PanoLab app does isn’t exactly new; my Canon Ixus 330 from the late ’90s had similar panoramic-shooting capability built-in. However, it’s clever given that camera phones ubiquitous, as well as how it utilizes the iPhone’s multi-touch feature for arranging shots.

Hey, don’t just take my word for it… check out the growing PanoLab flickr pool of tasty panoramas all shot with the iPhone’s craptastic built-in camera.

Moral of story: It’s not the technology that matters… it’s the driver.

Lost in Singapore? No longer with Google Street View, iSingeo,

Google Street View car spotted in Singapore
Photo source: CNet Crave

Hurray! Google Street View is confirmed to be coming to Singapore in a few months (via Singeo). Similarly, Street View launched in Japan earlier this year, much to the delight of Jon on

What kind of fun can you have with Google Street View in Singapore?
Here are some ideas…

With Singapore being so geographically small, I’ve been somewhat puzzled why it has taken so long for Google or Yahoo! to present better mapping services for Singapore. While the low priority could be due to our relatively small market size, there’s definitely no shortage of local GIS developers ready to jump on board. Let’s not forget, with the demand for location-aware mobile applications (e.g. iPhone), there’s bound to be plenty of fresh money to be made in this industry.

If anyone needs a clue, check out these two mavericks who have reworked Google maps into their own design…
Making the case that more Singaporeans require walking rather than driving directions (a current default of Singapore’s Google Map), mapping extraordinaire Jon of has developed for the traveling iPhone user.

For those who us who can’t stand typing on miniscule keyboards, iSingeo lets you pick landmarks from several pulldown menus (obviously find ones near you), then points you on the direction and the time it would take to get there, all through an optimized Google Map iPhone interface.

It’s such a waste of Jon’s immense experience in this field isn’t already being tapped on by Google, Yahoo! and even the local government. Developers like him are willing to contribute to the local online scene, yet are stifled by having to manually chase down the relationships they need.

What if a real interface designer took over Google Maps?
What if a real interface designer took over Google Maps?
Oh yeah, you get!

As a brainchild of KK, Dominic and Jeremy, was recently redesigned by the talented designer, Jussi Edlund. Most Singaporeans know about, but if you’re not a local, go see. Doesn’t the interface feel finger lickin’ good?

The unique selling point of is how it gives you the kind of contextual information you’d typically from a full featured Google Maps, but is somehow missing from the standard Singapore Google Map. Just as you might experience Google Maps in metropolitan cities like San Francisco, you’ll be able to get the directions, distance, estimated time, as well as cost of public transportation.

There are easter eggs in there if you look hard enough, such as what it tells you when your destination is just a short walk away: “Come on, don’t be lazy, walking is a good form of exercise“. It’s the human touch.

Plenty more features have been added, such as integration with Singapore web service providers should quickly hook up with where they can… I do think that there’s a sore need for a local web ecology.

The clever bit about Obama’s iPhone app…

Via arigreenberg:

I just learned about the new Obama / Biden iPhone application from Nate Westheimer. This app is impressive and another great example of how in tune the Obama campaign is with technology and social media tools. One of the features is the “Call Friends” tool which sorts all of your contacts by state starting with swing states. Very smart.

You can download the application from the iTunes store here. Enjoy.

I also read somewhere that McCain’s app will be released on VHS. I’m j/k.

BoinxTV: A wonderful live production studio for the Mac

BoinxTV: Live Video Production for Mac

I’ve been practicing the art of video production for the web for a while now, and one of the areas I’ve been interested in is the growing space of live video production.

While we have online streaming solutions such as,, and the magnificent, I’ve also been on the look out for prosumer level Mac-based desktop apps that allow me to do on-site live video production for streaming or videocasting online.

In producing professional looking video podcasts, post-production is the most time-consuming part of our workflow. Having tools that allow us perform live production would decrease our overall delivery time dramatically.

In terms of Mac-based video production studios, I’ve heard that daily videocasters like use WireCast, while I’ve been playing with the freely available CamTwist on my end. Today, I managed to try the pre-release version of BoinxTV… and boy was I blown away!

BoinxTV: Live Video Production for Mac

At the “New Document” screen, notice the video output formats.

Here’s the feature summary

  • BoinxTV is an audiovisual mixing tool
  • For recording video podcasts or displaying live
  • Overlay logos, a news ticker, or create graphical effects
  • Apply transformations and filters to the incoming video image
  • Runs on your Mac and supports up to three cameras

BoinxTV: Live Video Production for Mac

Interface may offer a lot at first glance, but it get pretty intuitive as its consistent throughout my user experience.

From my personal experience with BoinxTV

  • Decently short learning curve in terms of user interface (i.e. video mixer)
  • As a pre-release, it runs well on my 17″ HD MBP, with multiple cameras and layers active
  • Unsure if BoinxTV is capable of acting as a video source for live video streaming (e.g. Quicktime broadcaster, Flash-based video streaming)
  • No idea on the price of BoinxTV yet

Here’s the page where you can register to be invited to try BoinxTV. HOWEVER, I have a Seeding Code for first four who reply with a comment so you can immediately download and play.

For the rest of us, there’s a BoinxTV screencast tutorial yo can subscribe to as a podcast at itpc://