March 8, 2013, 11:00 am
I met a Vim wizard for the first time in 1994. Two of them actually, a married couple. They really were wizards, at least in that mysterious internet gaming environment known as a MUD. That meant they had powers to build and transform the online world that the rest of us plodded through, one “north” or “south” command at a time. They had the power to bring objects into being and banish players from the realm. They told me that someday 3D graphics would allow us to wander through digital worlds without a keyboard, and talk directly into a microphone to other players around the world. Virtual reality was coming. “Ya, ok, whatever, so teach me enough C++ programming so I can see how you create rooms and stuff.” What followed was an attempt to teach a freshman philosophy major still working his way through elementary logic class how to fly before he could walk. Lots of gibberish about…
February 28, 2013, 8:00 am
In my last two postings, I introduced a way to create slide presentations by writing them in a simple text file, with Markdown formatting, and add some of the “infinite canvas” features of Impress.js. The resulting presentation (simple example) can be viewed in modern browsers without any special software.
If you want a markdown text based slideshow without any need for the flexible pan/scale/rotate features of Impress.js there are a number of far better alternatives. In theory, one of several advantages to composing markdown text based slides is that, as new and better ways emerge to create browser based presentations, there is very little you should need to change to make it work. Unfortunately, the truth is that differing interpretations of markdown and the way they render markdown text means that the export/import inconsistencies you may be familiar with between PowerPoint/Keynote…
February 26, 2013, 8:00 am
Last week I introduced a way to create Prezi-style “infinite canvas” style slide presentations written in plain text with markdown formatting. I used a free command line utility called Mdpress which takes your markdown text file and transforms it into a slideshow that can be shown using any modern browser. It also allows you to add the pan, scale, and rotation effects of Prezi through its support of something called Impress.js.
Though I went through the basic steps last week, I didn’t offer any concrete example. Today I offer you a simple example and two ways to improve it. Find the raw markdown text for my presentation here: mypres1.md
Now following my directions from last week, I saved this file and ran mdpress. Since I had a image for my first slide, I put the image folder with the appropriate image inside the folder that was created. The result is a slideshow that looks like…
February 19, 2013, 8:00 am
I see Prezi presentations instead of PowerPoint slides at a lot of conferences these days. When done well, they can challenge the presentation paradigm and make innovative use of an “infinite canvas,” but done poorly, they can be simply be disorienting. As Anastasia has pointed out, opinions are strongly divided. Whatever one thinks about its relative utility in terms of presenting content, the novelty of animated movement across scale and space does seem to have a hypnotic effect on audiences. Also, on more than one occasion, the visual jump seems to have jolted a half-dozing neighbor to attention. This side effect alone may encourage some of the more skeptical among us to try it.
Prezi is not an open format (to be fair, neither are PowerPoint or Keynote!). It uses Flash technology and despite recent support for mobile devices, including the anti-Flash world of iOS, it requires the…
February 12, 2013, 3:00 pm
Omeka, the web publishing platform for sharing rich digital collections recently got a major update to 2.0. This open source project from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University has been serving many museums, libraries, and other archives large and small with its customizable but relatively simple to use server software. We have introduced Omeka here at ProfHacker, talked about its use in teaching, as well as pointed out some useful ways to customize it and make it more accessible.
I just finished an upgrade from 1.3 on an installation of Omeka I use as a kind of family archive, hosting old Christmas letters, family stories, and anecdotes about objects that have passed from generation to generation. While I miss the built-in browser updating we have been spoiled with in the world of WordPress blogs, the upgrade process for Omeka was still…
January 24, 2013, 11:00 am
We are huge fans of collaborative writing here at ProfHacker. I think there is still huge potential for growth in this area. When I sit next to a friend in a conference audience who has never collaboratively written anything in Google Docs and suggest we take notes together, or the same with a group of friends who are assembling ideas for a project, I have yet to be disappointed by the speed with which the advantages to the approach are understood and the practice adopted.
Though we have talked about a number of alternatives here, I still find GDocs to be the best. However, my continued dependence on Google Docs makes me uneasy. I would love for an easy to use, cross-platform, open source alternative to get widely adopted. The leading candidate is currently Etherpad lite. Both Etherpad and a number of similar kinds of collaborative editing environments have online homes you can go to…
January 21, 2013, 11:00 am
Do you have an old smart phone, tablet, or computer in a drawer or a closet somewhere that you never got around to selling or giving away? You might consider setting it up as a development server as Jason describes here. You can also set it up to act as an extra layer in your backup strategy.
This is what I decided to do with an old iPhone 3GS that still worked, except a testy headphone connection, that had a nice 32GB of space on it. I wanted an extra place to backup my mail and dump larger files quickly for transfer to other devices that might connect to my local network (including guests who visit). While I won’t go into all the steps in complete detail, here is basically what was required to get this up and running (I’m writing here from perspective of using an iPhone and connecting to it from other OS X devices):
- If you have an iPhone or iPad (rather than an Android or other …
January 8, 2013, 8:00 am
Before hitting grad school, I spent some pleasant months doing tech support at a call center for Norway’s largest internet provider. Back then, my minimum wage and a 31% income tax still left me with a living wage and four weeks paid vacation in one of the most expensive countries around, so I had very little to complain about.
Perhaps my favorite memory of that job, besides deciphering Norwegian dialects and slowly developing stereotypes about the people who stood behind them, was using the lone convertible standing desk in the office. Pressing a lever with your foot caused it to slowly rise, or allowed your hands to easily press it down to regular sitting height again. I came in early for each of my shifts to claim it. I spent most of my day standing, but loved the ability to quickly convert to a sitting position when I wanted to rest my legs and back. Surely this was the future, I …
October 26, 2012, 11:00 am
Hopefully most our readers here have a good backup routine in place. After learning the lesson the hard way, I now I use an obsessive combination of a cloud-based system (I use SpiderOak, which we introduced here and here), time machine, the mirroring of important files between two computers with the help of SpiderOak, regular backups to a hard drive and more irregular backups to a medium-term storage medium. This, in turn, is deposited at a safe location in a country not likely to be destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse at the same time as the country I live in.
One common task needed for this variety of backup procedures is the syncing of a folder, especially when I back up to my external hard drive. I have tried lots of different folder syncing apps over the years, many of which can now be found on the App Store, but I’ve noticed that, since the coming of OS X, some leading sync a…
October 16, 2012, 8:00 am
Next week is Open Access Week and its admirable slogan is, “Set the Default to Open Access.” As a recently minted PhD graduate who wants to both publish with recognized journals in my field and widely share my work as open access, this is treacherous territory. Fortunately, there are many roads to open access. One of the most important of these is self-archiving.
I recently took a closer look at a wonderful search engine that has been around for over a decade now, providing information to authors who want to learn more about the copyright and open access policies of journals:
Searching on this database, I was delighted to see that a number of the leading journals in my areas of interest, including the Journal of Asian Studies, are listed on SHERPA/RoMEO under their most generous “Green” classification, which means that the publication permits authors to self-archive…