Friday, September 26, 2003

Bizarro Apple -- General --

I stumbled across the "L Company" mentioned on a couple of RSS feeds I subscribe to. Their products sounded interesting (a 17" notebook, and a 45" flat panel display), so I checked out their website.

Welcome to Bizarro Apple. The site is an attempted 100% knock-off of another well known website.

Except, these guys just Don't Get It.

From a snazzy flash intro (Welcome to the Web, Circa 1997!), to the WinXP garish colours, to the flashing/blinking bits all over the site clamouring for attention... Oh, and the 20-scrolled-pages product info pages... These guys completely blew the rip-off.

Oh, and their big claim to innovation (aside from flat panels, laptops, and menus that don't work on properly in Safari)? You can customize the "L" logo for you system, carved from rock. I'm not kidding. Whoopiefreakingdoo.

Posted by dnorman at 01:15 PM | Comments (0) | Categories: General | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Keynote to MPEG4? -- MacOSX --

I was just iChatting with someone, and the topic of Macromedia Breeze came up. I suggested it would be cool if Keynote could do that kind of thing, and he dryly mentioned that, since it’s just XML, why couldn’t it?

So, I’m poking around, trying to see what it would take to turn a Keynote .key file into a happy standards-compliant MPEG4 .mp4 file that could be played/streamed anywhere.

Looks pretty straightforward (not trivial, though). Start with the Keynote .key APXL file, run an XSLT transformation to an MPEG4 XMT file, compile that into an MPEG4 BIFS file, and then stream it to any compliant player.

How hard could it be? I know… Probably a little harder than it seems. Anyway, I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll report back to the rest of the class when/if I have anything to share.

Posted by dnorman at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | Categories: MacOSX | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

About Pachyderm (and reusability of learning objects) -- CAREO --   -- Learning Objects --  

I've mentioned Pachyderm a few times, and hinted at it more than that. So, what is Pachyderm, and why is it interesting?

For starters, take a look at some sample projects completed using Pachyderm 1.0.

Pachyderm is a project started by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, out of a need to create some kick-ass interactive pieces from their collection of assets (images mostly, but also audio and video). They built a tool that took what are now called learning objects, and with some input from a curator, generated a highly interactive Flash piece that was way more than just a bunch of images.

The main goal of the Pachyderm 2.0 project, as I see it (and I'm just a minor participant, mind you) is to provide some tools and techniques for teachers and students to create high-impact, interactive learning objects from a collection of "lesser learning objects" or assets.

Continue reading "About Pachyderm (and reusability of learning objects)"
Posted by dnorman at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | Categories: CAREO , Learning Objects , Pachyderm | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Pachyderm's Got the Green Light! -- General --

We just heard official notification that Pachyderm was given the green light! That's such good news. We're going to be working to make it easier to make really high-end aggregate learning objects...

I'll post more tomorrow...

Posted by dnorman at 04:04 PM | Comments (1) | Categories: General | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 19, 2003

iSight Camera Rocks! -- MacOSX --

iSight CameraI’ve had 6 video conferences today, using iChatAV and iSight. Coolest thing ever.

When I got the iSight, I honestly didn’t think I’d actually use it - I figured “Hey, cool toy. Sure is shiny!” and assumed it would sit on a shelf somewhere.

Now, I find myself plugging in the camera right after the keyboard, mouse, and power when I get into my office in the morning. The thing Just Works. It works amazingly well. And being able to see the people you’re working with is pretty cool (as long as they remember to shower and get dressed first… ahem).

Posted by dnorman at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | Categories: MacOSX | TrackBack (0)
CAREO Installer Continued... -- CAREO --

I just tested installation, configuration and operation of CAREO on an unnamed, still-in-beta operating system.

With the installer, it took me all of 5 minutes to get all the bits in place, running a new instance of CAREO and ALOHA Server.

This included copying the disk image over from my TiBook, running the installer, and hand-configuring the WebObjects app (since I haven’t gotten around to getting the installer to do that automagically yet).

Oh, and this unnamed, still-in-beta operating system is set to kick some royal ass. But you didn’t hear it from me.

Posted by dnorman at 02:37 PM | Comments (2) | Categories: CAREO | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 15, 2003

Monolithic Spaghetti -- Development --

Great quote from Rick Jelliffe on the xml-dev listserv (found via a pointer from Tim Bray - thanks, Tim!):

Any sufficiently monolithic technology is indistinguishable from spaghetti.

Once a large technology is made from sufficiently intertwined parts, there is no way to order an exposition of it such that strongly-connected ideas are always close together.

Spaghetti doesn't want to be free.

The current version of the-software-that-runs-CAREO has suffered pretty severely from this spaghetti syndrome. We're planning the next version, which is a complete rewrite, to be much more modular. Using smaller bits of functionality, hopefully nothing reaches the spaghetti critical mass.

Of course, parallels could be drawn along the lines of Linux (monolithic macrokernel) vs. Darwin (microkernel), but I'm not going to go there at the moment...

UPDATE: I just re-read the excerpted quote, and this quasi-random thought popped into my skull.... Spaghetti wants to be written. Just like the One Ring wants to be found. Only vigilance can prevent it.

Posted by dnorman at 02:07 PM | Comments (0) | Categories: Development | TrackBack (0)
Good introduction to WebObjects -- WebObjects --

I just came across this introduction to webobjects, on

Quite good, actually, giving nice clear descriptions of the architecture and design of a WebObjects app, and how that differs from other typical web applications.

Posted by dnorman at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | Categories: WebObjects | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 12, 2003

Open Source vs. Open Standards -- Development --

Interesting piece on on the difference between Open Source and open standards. People often get caught up with the promise of open standards, and confuse that with the purpose of Open Source.

To me, the real goal isn't Open Source. That's a means to an end, often enabling and facilitating adoption of open standards. The real goal is the creation, adoption, and implementation of open standards, which don't tie anyone to any particular piece of software or data.

The example cited in the article pretty much blows my mind. In order to file for a patent in the US, you have to do it in MS Word .doc format. Which means you have to own Word. Which means, by extension, that you have to pay MS in order to file for a patent. Holy crap! Open standards for document format would prevent this silliness, where Open Source has apparently failed.

Posted by dnorman at 02:57 PM | Comments (1) | Categories: Development | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, September 11, 2003

IMS LOM Proposal: Multiple Technical Elements to Support Thumbnails etc... -- Metadata --

I've just posted a document I'm working on, proposing a solution to storing thumbnail references, as well as various other formats of the same learning object, within a single LOM metadata record/document.

The Coles' Notes version is this: We need a place to store locations for thumbnail images for a learning object, as well as various formats (QuickTime, Real, Windows Media, etc...) without having to duplicate the LOM. The current solution would be to create separate LOMs for each format, or create a content package. Neither solution really addresses the problem.

If you're interested in the problem, please take a look, and let me know what you think. If you have some constructive feedback, I'd love to incorporate it into the document (giving attribution of course) and provide it to IMS so we can all benefit.

Posted by dnorman at 03:43 PM | Comments (7) | Categories: Metadata | TrackBack (0)
CanCore Metadata Guidelines Updated -- Metadata --

Norm Friesen just sent an email to the ICAAP Standards list, pointing out the newly revamped CanCore Metadata Guidelines, including a searchable utility (which looks quite useful, but barfed all over some of my queries...)

I just took a quick look at their interpretation of the Technical element, and it still seems to have some issues...

For instance, it still doesn't address multiplicity. Is it best to have 3 technical elements, one for each format of a resource (a GIF, a JPG, a TIF, each with their own sizes and locations - this is my personal preference), or mashing them all into one technical element (with multiple formats, locations, etc... which one points to which?).

There is even a technical element in their samples that has several formats in one technical, with no location at all... If it's available in .zip, .gif, and .html, and it has a size, shouldn't it also exist at some location?

On my to-do list is writing up a draft of a recommendation on how to handle the technical element, from the perspective of a "repository" implementer. I might make time to do that this week, now that the installer is back on track.

Posted by dnorman at 09:59 AM | Comments (1) | Categories: Metadata | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Stupid @##$@@ Telecom Services! -- General --

I moved offices almost 2 weeks ago. A whopping 10 feet west of where I was before. I then took a week off, and fully expected my phone line to be moved (among other things) when I got back.

Long story short, it wasn’t. I just borrowed a phone to plug into my old pod and found a whole whack of voicemail messages waiting for me. The phone on my desk sits dumbly, having no idea that it’s supposed to be working for me.

If you’ve been trying to call me over the last week or so, I’m not trying to ignore you. It’s stupid Telecom Services, who neglected to move my phone when asked the first couple of times. @$@#$!

Posted by dnorman at 03:55 PM | Comments (0) | Categories: General | TrackBack (0)
CAREO Installer Update -- CAREO --

It’s coming along nicely… I now have an installer that copies over the WebObjects application and supporting resources, creates the FrontBase database and populates it, and almost creates the MySQL metadata repository database… I have the MySQL stuff working as shell scripts, but it doesn’t want to play nicely when embedded in the installer.

After I wrestle the MySQL script into submission, I get to turn my gaze onto the WebObjects application configuration - ideally it should set up the app, start it, and have it automatically restart if the box is kicked over.

UPDATE: I just got the MySQL population part working… Silly mistake. I wasn’t including the complete path to the mysql command. It’s entered on my $PATHS in my .cshrc file so it worked fine there, but barfed in installer (which ran in another shell without my .cshrc to guide it). Note to self: CHECK THE LOG FOR THE INSTALLER BEFORE RUNNING OFF ON WILD GOOSE CHASES!

Posted by dnorman at 01:13 PM | Comments (0) | Categories: CAREO | TrackBack (0)
IMS Vocabulary Definition Exchange -- Metadata --

Problem: How to describe commonly used terms for use in keywords and other bits of metadata so that we can all share a vocabulary?

Solution #1: CanCore

Solution #2: IMS Vocabulary Definition Exchange. A new project (I hadn’t heard of it until today, thanks to the CETIS article) that is aimed at defining a way of describing vocabularies to do just this… Poodle is a Dog is an Animal is Carbon Based…

Hierarchical bits of related, structured vocabulary data. This could be quite useful. The ALOHA team had to roll their own solution to this a while back. Maybe the next version will be standards based?

Posted by dnorman at 11:24 AM | Comments (2) | Categories: Metadata | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 8, 2003

Trippy Optical Illusions -- General --

These are some extremely trippy optical illusions (found via BoingBoing).

Some would make freaky desktop pics…

Oh, and I guess they could be construed as learning objects, sorta, kinda…

Posted by dnorman at 08:09 PM | Comments (0) | Categories: General | TrackBack (0)
"Mass Amateurisation" of Learning Objects? -- Learning Objects --

Brian Lamb (channelling Tom Coates and Clay Shirkey) talks about Mass Amateurisation with respect to weblogs.

Isn't that sort of what software like CAREO is supposed to do for the learning object realm? That's my perception of the reason for CAREO even existing - let The People create and publish their stuff as learning objects, and let The People find/use/share/discuss them via the software...

Anyway, that's my take on it. YMMV.

Posted by dnorman at 12:46 PM | Comments (0) | Categories: Learning Objects | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, September 4, 2003

CAREO Application Installer -- CAREO --   -- Development --

I’m working on an installer for the CAREO application, its supporting framework and other bits of data and documents. I’m using the Apple PackageMaker, which does all of the fancy installers for the iApps etc…

It’s looking like it will be brain-dead easy to install (and upgrade) a CAREO installation, once I figure out how to write the scripts to automate database population. Very cool.

At least on MacOSX, it will be REALLY easy to set up an instance of CAREO. I should be able to reproduce much of this using plain-old shell scripts for lesser platforms.


Posted by dnorman at 01:36 PM | Comments (4) | Categories: CAREO , Development | TrackBack (0)